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Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Market Has Spoken — Will the NFL Listen?

San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick, left, and Blaine Gabbert stand on the sideline during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. Green Bay won 21-10.

The National Football League’s TV ratings dropped by 8 percent last season compared to the year before. Now a poll by J.D. Power reveals the top reason -- though it comes as no surprise. Fans are fed up with players’ behavior, on the field and off. The main issue was players’ protests against the National Anthem.

ESPN reported this week on a survey asking more than 9,200 sports fans whether they had watched fewer football games last season, and the reason.  Of those who said yes, 26 percent said it was because of players’ refusal to stand up for the National Anthem.

Close behind that, at 24 percent, was players’ violence off the field, including domestic violence. Also coming in at 24 percent was fans’ dislike of long game delays, including delays for penalties. Presidential campaign coverage also competed with viewers’ football watching time, according to J.D. Power.

Colin Kaepernick Leads the Protest, Loses Work

San Francisco Forty-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick led the small movement among players to kneel rather than stand during the playing of the National Anthem. The Forty-Niners restructured his contract in the middle of the season, and he opted out when the season ended. He’s promised to stand during the National Anthem next year, but he remains a free agent, not having been picked up by another team.

 An anonymous NFL executive offered a different explanation, telling Fox News that  “70 percent of teams ‘genuinely hate him, and can’t stand what he did,’ referring to his season-long national anthem protest.” 

 Some observers had dismissed fans’ dislike for Kaepernick’s other’s protests as “racism,” but the facts say otherwise. The current J.D. Power poll, covering a very large sample, echoes and reinforces findings from smallersurveys taken during last year’s football season. 

Astonishingly, the NFL stood by and allowed players to disrespect our flag and our country without penalty. Will they do so during the coming season? If they do, they can expect fan interest -- and team revenues -- to continue to drop. The market has spoken. Will the NFL listen?

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