Last season one player in the NFL decided to not follow tradition (and the NFL handbook) when it came to the pregame playing of the National Anthem. I think it is fair to say this irritated a lot of the NFL audience, but for the most part they kept on paying money to see the games, buy the memorabilia etc.

This year, as everyone knows, way more NFL players are doing the same, as are various coaches etc. and so President Trump has got on twitter to suggest they should be fired. Rather than taking issue with the players’ behavior, the NFL leadership has doubled down and claimed that Trump (and people like him) are the problem:

The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like [Trump’s] demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.

This is amazingly tone deaf, but does appear to be pretty much the modus operandi for NFL bigwigs. That’s not just limited to the anthem issue either, the NFL and team owners have been annoying loyal fans quite a lot recently. Take the way they decided to move two teams to LA, in part because the places where they were didn’t want to give them a nice-enough new stadium with the various sweetheart deals the owners wanted. Neither LA team is flourishing – the Chargers don’t appear to be able to sell even 10,000 tickets to home fans and the Rams, while doing slightly better, are also being accused of price gouging by fans (see comments here for example). Nor, for that matter, are the LA teams the only ones having trouble filling a stadium. The Santa Clara 49ers (vs the Rams as it happens), practically gave the seats away for a game this season and still couldn’t sell more than 50% and they’ve been having trouble filling the stadium for a couple of years. It isn’t too hard to find similar stories about other teams too.

So with that as background, how are things going in the light of the protests?

Articles with titles like “NFL ticket sales plummet 17.9%” are a hint. As are ones with titles like “NFL’s ratings crash to new lows on CBS“.

And with that as the background here’s a fascinating poll by Yahoo Finance:

A new Yahoo Finance poll suggests the NFL has an enduring problem on its hands. Nearly 62% of 9,056 respondents told us they plan to watch less pro football in response to the anthem controversy. Thirty-six percent said they plan to buy less NFL merchandise, and 32% have chosen not to attend a game they would otherwise have gone to. Those findings all have financial implications for the NFL and its 32 team owners.

We wanted to limit our survey, conducted online via SurveyMonkey from Sept. 28-29, to people who patronize the NFL, and exclude people who have an opinion but don’t watch football. So we only counted answers from people who describe themselves as pro football fans. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they watch at least one game per week, with 46% of those saying they watch more than two games.

While it is true that this is an online poll, the sample size is large (YUUGE even), and SurveyMonkey are known to be good are detecting and removing ballot stuffing attempts. The whole survey is worth reading but I feel that Q9 and Q10 are the most brutal:

Assuming this survey is in fact representative the NFL are going to see lower viewership, lower ticket sales and lower sales of merchandise (and this merch has BTW already been made and is on its way to the US in containers so if sales really dry up NFL teams are likely to make a big loss on this). If the ratings drop then ad revenue will drop – indeed advertisers may decide to pull sponsorship entirely. This will hurt the TV networks (aww shucks) as well as the NFL and there’s evidence of this too.

How tragic