NFL Ratings are down:
A pizza maker and concussions are to blame… But who’s fault is it?
By Drew Farmer
The NFL received a black eye when Donald Trump went on the attack, and got involved with the ongoing player protests during the National Anthem. The United States President seemed to forget the country he represents was built on free speech, something that all NFL players are entitled to regardless of being professional athletes, or not. Of course, NFL players are employees and human beings. Just because the public pays to watch them perform doesn’t mean they don’t have the same rights.
But now, NFL sponsor, Papa John’s, has thrown its hat onto the minefield created by the league’s National Anthem protests. Company founder and CEO John Schnatter, raised the ire of many when he stated the NFL and its protests have hurt the company’s bottom line. The Trump supporting pizza maker has been described by some as “worse than Trump” after he blamed the league for his $70 million loss. It seems that no matter how good Papa John’s pizza is, people are standing – or taking a knee – with the NFL’s players.
On November 14th, around 10 days after Schnatter made his financial loss claims on a company earnings call, the Papa John’s public relationship machine was churning out apologies faster than pizzas. One news website has claimed Schnatter prefers to attack people, or the NFL, rather than attempt to find a solution to his problems. Which is a fair assessment.
It isn’t just one pizza boy’s comments that are causing problems for the NFL. The league is run by billionaire owners who want the trend of making money hand over fist to continue. The problem is, we are in a changing world, and in America in particular, the political climate has caused a variety of unhappiness. Of course, the candidate chosen by popular vote didn’t actually get into office, and the person who was elected has done nothing but treat the NFL’s players like bought and sold commodities.
Then there is the take a knee movement, something copied around the world as other pro athletes show their support for the NFL’s players, which has turned some fans off of the NFL this season. Regardless of which side of the fence you land on, fans are tuning out. Sports Illustrated claims the concussion issues and CTE are another problem causing fans to turn their back on the once “can’t miss action” of the NFL.
The accumulation of news headlines have seen the NFL’s ratings decline this season, but it seems many critics are ignoring other notable reasons. One in particular could indeed be a main factor for many fans missing the NFL’s weekly games. The public has a multitude of other options, and plenty of average consumers are tuning out, because they’ve already cut the cord.
In the last few years, cutting the cord has been a major trend due to rising cable and satellite television costs. Many of the people cutting the cord have moved to Netflix, Prime or other streaming platforms. Some may just get sports illegally from on-line streaming websites. Overlooking households who have cut the cord is not wise, but it seems NFL experts, and the media, can’t fathom that fans would actually tune out to save a buck. But it is true, and plenty of former NFL watchers are finding other things to do on Sundays. Or they are watching in ways that aren’t being calculated in ratings.
It would also be foolish to rule out the rise of soccer in the US. The ratings numbers aren’t anywhere near the same as the NFL, but many of those viewers may have moved away from American football to watch soccer. And they may not return.
While Papa John’s, and others, want to blame social protests for declining NFL ratings, maybe they should look at the changing landscape of the world around them. The NFL has grown comfortable at the top of the mountain, but… nothing lasts forever.