NFL Protests and Potential Kaepernick Return: What will happen this go round?
As the Black Lives Matter movement gains traction across the United States, we know where the NFL will stand (or kneel) for 2020.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come out and said the league will support their players. The players have been vocal, both black and white. We even saw a rift between several Saints players and their quarterback Drew Brees for tone deaf comments. Brees eventually scaled back on them and all is well.
Now, we are seeing vocal support as reports are indicating the NFL could bring back Colin Kaepernick…the man responsible for starting the protests. Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn recently said he is interested in having Kaepernick work out.
Thus the plot continues to thicken for the NFL and Black Lives Matter.
Before I dive into my thoughts on the protests, Kaepernick and predicting what will happen, allow me to give you a brief recap of what has unfolded the last few years.
Impact of the Protests
In 2015, the NFL set historically great TV ratings across the board. They averaged 17.9 million viewers per game, the highest of the decade. That was among historic highs on Monday Night, Sunday Night and Thursday Night Football.
In 2016, two things happened causing a slide in the average viewership to 16.5 million. It was an election year and the protests began. However, the 16.5 was similar to the numbers in 2012 (another election year), where the average was 16.6.
In most years, we typically see the ratings climb back up following the election year. The NFL saw 16.6 million viewers in 2009, a two million uptick from the 2008 election. The ratings also increased from 16.6 million to 17.4 million coming out of the 2012 election.
Coming out of the 2016 election, the ratings fell to the lowest of the decade by a mile in 2017. They fell to 14.8 million viewers on average.
It had everything to do with the protests manifesting across the league. The league stepped in prior to the 2018 season outlawing their players from protesting. They saw an increase to 15.8 million viewers in 2018. It increased again in 2019 to 16.5 million. Just to recap…
NFL VIEWERSHIP SINCE 2015
- 2015 – 17.9 million viewers
- 2016 – 16.5 million viewers (Protests begin)
- 2017 – 14.8 million viewers (Protests continue)
- 2018 – 15.8 million viewers (Protests banned)
- 2019 – 16.5 million viewers
It is safe to say the voices of those who hated the protest methods were heard. That is why the NFL had to step in.
NFL Stepping In
To be honest, I don’t disagree with the NFL doing so. It is their responsibility to protect their bottom line as a business. I don’t view the NFL, any athlete or any sports entity as the moral footprint for society. Therefore, I don’t see a moral obligation to the public. Of course in the US, our society holds a heavy weight on athletes to be those things whether I believe they should or not. My belief is irrelevant to the what is.
Shut Up and Play
That being said, I do love seeing athletes speak out as much as some people want to suppress the thoughts of athletes. Read a comment section anytime an athlete throws their hat or two cents into the political ring.
You get plenty of comments that say “keep politics out of sports” or “they’re ridiculous for doing this at work.”
So because they have a platform, you don’t think they should use it? Or do you only believe athletes should use their opinions when it fits your narrative? Either way, I am taking what you say with a grain of salt if you’re in that camp.
Hell, you even had Laura Ingraham coin her infamous phrase to LeBron James…Shut Up and Dribble. Then, turn around and defend Brees for asserting his opinion into the equation. People like that are deplorable to say the least.
That brings me to Colin Kaepernick. Do I support Kaepernick?
It’s complicated. The easiest way to describe it…I support the message, not the messenger.
He’s passed up on multiple opportunities to play in the NFL and other leagues. Most of which were financial. Some were self inflicted wounds such as his girlfriend tweeting and moving a private workout.
He’s worn clothing depicting messages that were questionable at best (Castro shirt and police socks).
Personally, I feel he’s become too engulfed in his own ego versus the message itself. That is not to say he doesn’t care about the message. He does based on the merit of him donating over 1.1 million dollars (maybe more?) to this point toward the cause.
The questionable actions have certainly piled up in the meantime. He still has a chance to change that now with the narrative shifting in favor of Black Lives Matter.
To rehash whether he should’ve been in the NFL or not all along…
Is he good enough? Yes.
Has he been good enough? Yes.
Anyone who says otherwise, you’re a fucking idiot if you actually think someone like Sean Mannion is better.
The problem with a team signing Kaep has little to do with his talent and more to do with the noise that follows.
The easiest comparison I can think of is Tim Tebow, obviously for much different reasons. The same premise though, the talent isn’t worth the noise.
For Tebow, he was never even close to as good as Kaep. He looked like a decent back up at best. The problem was the media’s obsession (me too) with Tebowmania and his unwillingness to play something other than quarterback. The second a starting QB begins to slip, the question would be when is it Tebow time? His talent wasn’t worth the noise.
With Kaep, the same thing. Instead of more positive noise, you were getting negative noise about the protests and probably losing fans and sales as a result. The problem with Kaep is his talent isn’t good enough to overcome that.
Under Jim Harbaugh, it was fair to say his ceiling was top 10. H was one of the best young QBs at the time next to his division rival Russell Wilson. Once Harbaugh left, he was top 16-17 at best. As the years wore on, the QB pool became much deeper thus lowering his value even more.
He was always good enough, but not good enough to overcome the noise. That is the distinction too many who hate his message or method left out.
It’s Not About the Flag
In regards to his message, I have always supported for standing up against racial inequality. I have stated that in previous columns. I have always been on board with the method as well.
I love being an American. I love that I grew up here. I love living here. America is great and has been great long before Donald Trump took office, despite his slogan. We are better than most countries in many ways. That also doesn’t mean that we don’t fall short in ways.
One of the ways is historically how we view minorities in this country. That is not to say every other country has it better. We still are better than many. We also have a more diverse culture than many. We need to progress accordingly.
But, wanting better for a country doesn’t make you unpatriotic. In fact, I’d argue the opposite.
Resting on your laurels and disregarding people for wanting better, that just makes you a nationalist. You are no patriot.
Unfortunately for black people, we, as a society, must erase centuries of hatred that still trickles into society in 2020. Policies such as redlining have put Black Americans behind the 8-ball. We need policies such as scholarship funds and affirmative action just to level the playing field.
People like to point to black on black crime in this country. Those same people fail to realize why predominantly black inner cities are infested with crime. Those families are in a cycle of systematic brokenness. They are broken as a family. They are broken financially. They are broken educationally.
While some make it out of that life, it’s unfair to say that all should when they are playing so far behind the 8-ball from the time they are conceived.
Because of that, many police officers operate with the perception that black people are more dangerous, which leads to unjustified killings time and time again.
In short, that is why we are seeing the protests.
Name Me a Better Way to Protest
In regards to the method of protests, we are still talking about it today.
I always hated hearing “oH FiNd AnOtHeR WaY.” Every time I asked what is another way to keep the needle moving? I was always met with crickets. Normally it was “tHeY CaN Do PrEeS CoNfErEnCeS AnD DoNaTe MoNeY To ThEiR CaUsE If ThEy rEaLLy CaReD!”
Great insight. You mean the shit they already do. (Insert eye roll) You’re real informed on the issue.
You can disagree with kneeling during the anthem all you want and suggest it is un-American or disrespectful to the military. You’re also forgetting it was a military veteran, Nate Boyer, who suggested to Kaepernick to kneel during the anthem.
Before kneeling, he was sitting. Boyer told him kneeling would be a better way to go against the status quo and still pay respect to those who fought and died for the country. Kaepernick listened. He acted accordingly. I commend him for that.
Because Boyer told him that doesn’t mean Boyer speaks for all of the military. There are veterans who don’t like it.
Sometimes people need to sit back and just listen to the message. Protests by design are controversial. His were peaceful.
You’re About to Hear The Message Tenfold
That is where this gets interesting. What happens in the NFL this year as protests are inevitable?
When the protests began back in 2016, I wished more white players would have supported the cause vocally. Chris Long is the first white player that comes to mind who spoke out regarding racial injustice.
Chris Long is an awesome human. He’s been one of the most charitable athletes I have seen in my lifetime. But, let’s call a spade a spade. He doesn’t hold much weight around the league. He’s not an elite player in the league. It’s harder to have a large voice when you’re not elite nor a quarterback.
Of course I don’t hold it against others who didn’t speak up, again, they’re not required to. But, I believe the needle would have moved more with more prominent players speaking out.
Fast forward to 2020…
We already know two starting QBs who intend to kneel during the anthem, Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray and Cleveland Browns Baker Mayfield.
While neither of them are elite QBs, both are young and have enough name recognition to carry some weight stemming from the fact they are “future franchise quarterbacks.” It is going to be interesting to see how many players, especially QBS, follow suit.
I anticipate more players protesting police brutality and racial injustice in 2020.
As I alluded to earlier, those players have the backing of the commissioner now. That is an important part of this equation as well.
What Happens to Viewership?
The last question I will answer…what does this do for the ratings? Do they continue to rebound or begin sliding again?
While I don’t have a crystal ball that will definitively tell me, I can only go off pure conjecture based on what I am seeing.
I think seeing athletes protesting racial injustice during the anthem is still going to rub many people the wrong way. As a result, I believe those people will tune out again.
However, I am not sure this will impact the ratings a great deal and if it does, I can see it being minimal. Maybe a flat-line in ratings or slight decrease. It certainly won’t drop into the 14 million threshold like before. At worst, I can see it falling to 16.0 million.
I think for every person that tunes out, there will be more younger demographic tuning in. Another part of the equation is the fact we have been without sports for so long now. People are itching to watch sports again. The NFL Draft set historically high numbers as a result.
Based on what I have seen on social media and conversations with peers, I believe many people who did not support the protesting in 2016 feel differently four years later in light of recent events. The main premise of the narrative is no longer the flag and is more about the issue at hand. As players continue to drive that narrative home, it becomes much harder for people to hijack it.
Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn
As for my own thoughts, bring on the protests again baby. Because for the people who love to call the other side snowflakes, I can’t wait to watch them piss, whine and moan over it.
Even though, I have issues with Kaepernick in many ways. I hope I am wrong about him and he does in fact want to play football again. I hope he does sign with the Chargers. I hope he wins the starting job. I hope the Chargers make the playoffs with him as their starting quarterback.
I loved watching him play with San Francisco and I hope I can see him kissing his bicep after he scores once again. It would be the ultimate middle finger to those who love to crush athletes for using their platform and voice.