With another week of terrible television ratings in the books, the National Football League (NFL) appears to be on the verge of caving in its ongoing battle with the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump.
How quickly things change, huh?
Last month NFL commissioner Roger Goodell slammed Trump for proposing a boycott of the league so long as players refused to stand for the national anthem.
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,” Goodell said at the time.
Since then, NFL ratings have continued their free fall … and Trump’s administration has one-upped the protesting players in the PR battle.
Goodell has now changed his tune, writing to owners this week to inform them that the controversy over the anthem protests “is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.”
“Like many of our fans we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem,” Goodell said. “It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”
Goodell’s comments come after a handful of owners have threatened to bench players who kneel during the anthem. It also comes as the league’s two most recent prime time telecasts – Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football – posted their lowest ratings of the year.
Our view? As libertarians, we have consistently supported the right of NFL players to protest as they see fit. Accordingly, we have continued to follow the NFL this season despite Trump’s boycott.
Having said that, we don’t blame fans for tuning out in response to the NFL’s tone-deafness. That’s their right as marketplace participants. Nor do we blame league owners for (belatedly) responding to the acute market pressures being brought to bear on their league.
What we are witnessing is, quite simply, a triumph of the American marketplace … although we assume the “all in” divisiveness underlying the drama will persist.
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