Proving that network television executives have learned absolutely nothing from the NFL ratings decline of this season, NBC Sports EP Fred Gaudelli confirmed that they would keep their cameras focused on the protesting players during the Super Bowl. At a Television Critics Association event on Tuesday, Gaudelli said that it was a matter of basic sports coverage.
“When you are covering a live event, you are covering what’s happening,” he said. “If there are players who choose to kneel, they will be shown live.”
Pop star Pink will be performing the Star-Spangled Banner at the big game, and more than a hundred million viewers are expected to tune in and see the biggest annual night in all of sports, broadcasting live from Minneapolis. While the Super Bowl is usually free from any serious controversies, this year may hearken back to the halftime show two years ago, when Beyoncé took the field for what many viewers saw as a political performance meant to demean American police officers. This year, with so many eyes watching, the NFL could watch a handful of players put one final black mark on a once-untouchable brand name.
The NFL has gone to great lengths to downplay their ratings decline and/or blame it on anything and everything other than the anthem controversy. Despite having ample opportunity and leverage to force the players to stop disrespecting the flag, league management sat idly by in the name of some misguided concept of free speech. Meanwhile, not only are the ratings for the season a bad omen for things to come but a new survey proves that the flag protests are one of the biggest reasons for the deteriorating numbers.
In a survey that asked NFL fans if they “purposely” stopped watching NFL games over the past season, SurveyMonkey found that 33% of football fans said yes. A plurality of those boycotting the league said they did so “in support of Donald Trump.” What’s interesting, though, is that many fans stopped watching in “solidarity” with the kneeling players and/or Colin Kaepernick. So this survey shows that the NFL is getting it from all sides. The league isn’t just losing viewers who are disgusted with the protests but also viewers who BELIEVE in the protests! Talk about a bad situation.
The Super Bowl would have been the league’s perfect opportunity to take control of said situation and prove to millions of on-the-fence fans that this kind of unpatriotic nonsense is coming to an end. Instead, they appear poised to give these protesters the biggest spotlight of their careers…and possibly bring to an end any chance they ever had of winning back a dwindling audience.