A brand new NFL football season looms on the horizon, but a very old, very bad talking point has also resurfaced. Signaling an acceptance that NFL ratings could once again dip in 2017, some liberal sports reporters are already laying the groundwork to blame President Donald Trump for the NFL’s decline.
As the ratings fell month over month for most of the 2016 season, some analysts claimed that America’s attention on the election and all things political, diverted the attention of fans way from their favorite sport.
Ian Casselberry of Awful Announcing, for instance, recently worried that “a constantly churning news cycle and a president that frequently makes news — often dumping those developments late on Friday afternoons when they tend to get less coverage — could still have an effect on NFL ratings.”
Calling recent higher ratings for cable news networks the “Trump bump,” Casselberry says that such a ratings bump “doesn’t figure to change” as the networks continue slavishly covering every last little utterance, Tweet, or move made by the president and his administration.
Casselberry also relates the several other factors on which analysts blamed the NFL’s poor 2016 ratings. That included “diminished star power,” an “over saturation of the product,” (such as games on nights other than the weekend) and others. Casselberry also noted a recent survey that found fans saying that they had checked out from watching the NFL because of the constant protests during the playing of the national anthem.
Regardless, this yeat it will all be Trump’s fault:
The one thing that the NFL and its broadcast partners can’t control is the news. Not only could events like the violence in Charlottesville and Hurricane Harvey draw viewers away from NFL game broadcasts, but current events tend to have an even longer life in the news cycle because of how President Trump and the White House respond to such occurrences. The tumult in the administration, with cabinet members and various advisors being fired in a constant overhaul of White House staff, is also a continuing story that news outlets cover on what often seems like an hourly basis. It’s fodder for constant discussion on cable news channels as well.
“Maybe the return of football will provide some escape from the news and developments that are frequently upsetting to a large chunk of the population,” Casselberry concluded.
However, in years past when it kept its mind on football, the NFL has always weathered highly political eras without any slackening of its ratings or harm to its brand. If the league were to stick to its business, there is no reason to expect the era of Trump would be any different.
Casselberry is far from the only member of the sports media to worry that “politics” may continue to hurt the NFL. A recent piece in the Guardian noted that the resumption of anti-American protests during the national anthem may continue to drive fans away. Conservative Review TV host U.S. Steve Deace warned that the NFL needs to get a handle on these protests if it wants to rebuild its audience.
Traditionally, the league’s games on the weekend have served as a respite from the weekday’s bothers, as fans flocked to the game to get away from real life.
Yet, as the league left its safe spot on the weekends and tried to branch out into weekday games, not to mention allowing players to use the league as a platform to act out in support of radical groups like Black Lives Matter, the NFL’s ratings have begun a slide.
So, while Trump may have taken a few eyeballs off the NFL for the time being, the real fault lies with the NFL for trying to execute a hostile takeover of television viewing property that wasn’t theirs and for allowing players to go off on personal crusades instead of playing football.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.