So Where Did All The Fans Go?
Protesting the Protest
Let me start by saying I am, and always have been, a football fan. Whether playing as a kid, attending college or pro games, or just watching on a Sunday afternoon, I’ve always loved the game of football. The physical prowess, the strategy, the athleticism, the devotion to teamwork, the camaraderie; all make football a treasure to millions of Americans. Why even after spending most of my life dealing with a torn and mangled (the doctor’s words) ACL after a high school football injury, I still have great regard for this most American of games, and those that play it.
Until recently, that is. And it’s not just me; according to most reports, millions of Americans are tuning out the NFL games this season. These reports point to many factors for the downturn in viewership, including other entertainment options, election coverage, retirement of stars such as Peyton Manning, and poor games and match-ups on prime time spots. A current article online at Sports Illustrated cites ten reasons why viewership is down, with the election being number one.
From my vantage point, however, there is one main reason, and it all begins with the actions of a back-up quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, one Colin Kaepernick.
In a preseason NFL game earlier this year, Kaepernick, whose career has been heading downhill since leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl a few years back, decided to take a seat during the playing of the national anthem. Since that day, he, and other athletes at all levels, have decided to protest during the playing of the anthem, by taking a knee, or other more militant gestures.
Though it is unclear all the reasons Kaepernick began this form of protest, the prime one seems to be his alignment with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the protest of supposed police targeting of African Americans.
Many people, myself included, have two reactions to this protest. First, Kaepernick, and anyone else, has a perfect right to peacefully protest anything they wish having to do with what may be happening in our nation. Second, those of us who disagree with the protest, have a perfect right to oppose their actions. This opposition includes booing the protestors, chanting “USA, USA” in response to the protest (both of which have happened at NFL games), or simply turning off the TV when the NFL is on the air.
Entertainers, athletes, celebrities seem more and more to believe that their opinions or views on a variety of subjects not only carry great weight, but should be expressed, no matter the situation. Sorry, but I do not go to a concert to be told who I should vote for in order to be a good person (or in the case of the aging singer Madonna, to be promised sexual favors to vote a certain way). I don’t go to a movie to be told the right way to think, and I don’t watch a football game to be told my country is not up to certain athletes’ standards. Particularly by individuals extraordinarily privileged (monetarily, and otherwise) because of the fact that they can run faster, or throw a ball further, than almost anyone else.
No, those of us opposed to the actions of Kaepernick, and his followers, are not turning a blind eye to the wrongs committed historically in our country. From the institution of slavery, to the treatment of the American Indian, to the present day lack of concern of so many of our veterans, our nation’s governing bodies (and by extension, we, ourselves), have much to be regretful over; and yet we live in a country where a system is in place to correct these wrongs perpetrated against some of our citizens. That is the truly amazing aspect of our country – we have the choice, the duty, and a means to correct past wrongs, and make things better. Sometimes, it would be nice if we could recognize that truth, instead of voicing every grievance that may bring attention to ourselves. One way to recognize that truth, I suppose, is by standing at attention during the playing of the song that symbolizes the nation.
I’m guessing that the athletes of the NFL, and other leagues, will continue their form of protest, and so will the fans that take offense to those protests. What will that mean? Likely, some loss of revenue for the advertisers, and ultimately for the league and the players. It also may mean some freed up time for fans, who may no longer be sitting in front of their TV’s on a Sunday afternoon or Monday evening. And that would not be a bad thing at all.