Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Daily Signal on November 6, 2017.
The NFL owners are desperately trying to put the anthem controversy behind them after weeks of slumping ratings, sales, and horrible PR. But the damage, say most Americans, has already been done. Some fans are more determined than ever to stick it to the league that dishonored our flag, country, and millions of U.S. troops.
It’s all translated into a huge black eye for one of America’s biggest industries. That image isn’t improving any time soon, say experts. A Forbes analyst explains that the players’ protests are tanking their own sport:
Wall Street analysts have been trimming their earnings forecasts for CBS and Fox due to lower NFL ratings. In September, The Hollywood Reporter reported Jefferies analyst John Janedis figures CBS, ESPN, Fox, and NBC will generate about $2.5 billion in NFL advertising revenue this season, but a 10 percent shortfall could translate to a $200 million cut in earnings … While the overall stock market is up since the start of the football season, shares of the league’s broadcasters—CBS, Twenty-First Century Fox, Walt Disney (ESPN) are down.
And while some league officials have tried to explain away the plunging ratings by suggesting that people are watching online, the reality is that viewership like Amazon’s is down, too.
Another public spat—this time between the NFL and Papa John’s—shows how the NFL’s unpopularity is affecting other businesses. Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter argues that the NFL’s stance is affecting a lot more than the league. “The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” Schnatter said on a conference call. “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.”
Then, there are the stories like John Wells’. A disabled Navy veteran and longtime attorney for military religious freedom cases, the New Orleans Saints had planned to honor Wells with the Peoples Health Champion Award at Sunday’s game. Wells declined, infuriating Saints management.
“Although I am touched and honored to be selected for such an award, the ongoing controversy with NFL players’ disrespect for the national flag forces me to decline to participate in the presentation,” Wells wrote in a letter to the team. “I am unable, in good conscience, to enter an NFL stadium while this discourtesy prevails. Since this award is tainted with the dishonorable actions of the NFL and its players, I cannot accept it.”
The Saints’ response? Accusing Wells of divisiveness! “We will not allow Mr. Wells’s decision and subsequent media appearances to distract our players and organization from continuing to honor and support our military and veterans,” the team statement read. “We, as an organization, have decided to move on from this sad and divisive discourse and focus our attention on supporting our military and veterans.”
Like most people, we agree that the Saints should support our military and veterans. But the best way to do that is asking players to show America the respect it deserves.