Television ratings for the National Football League are down 11% from last year. Last week the NFL sent a memo to team owners assuring them all was right. The memo blamed the presidential election for the ratings drop.
Guess what the memo didn’t blame? Regarding any negative reactions to the National Anthem protests of quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other players, the memo’s authors wrote, “In fact, our own data shows that the perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016.” Indeed, they see “no evidence that concern over player protests during the national anthem is having any material impact on our ratings.”
As the scandal with concussions showed, however, the NFL has a less than reliable relationship with actual evidence. Rather, the NFL has a tendency to ignore inconvenient data until it sacks them in the endzone multiple times.
Here’s another reason to be skeptical that Kaepernick has had no impact on ratings: Kaepernick just signed a new deal with the San Francisco 49ers that reduces the number of years on his contract from four to two and removes the injury guarantees. Why would he do that? The reason is that the 49ers have wanted to cut Kaepernick, whose poor performance got him benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert, for some time now, but were unable to do so due to the injury guarantees. Now that Gabbert has been benched, the 49ers have Kaepernick by the short and curlies. As Dieter Kurtenbach of FoxSports explains:
…it’s evident that the 49ers were willing to go to third-string quarterback Christian Ponder if Kaepernick’s contract was not amended to alleviate the team’s concerns over the injury clauses. If Kaepernick had not renegotiated, the quarterback would have assuredly been cut at the end of the year, making him a free agent.
The 49ers clearly explained that scenario to Kaepernick — you can get cut at the end of the year without having played, or you can restructure your deal so that the injury language is gone and then play out the remainder of 2016 as the starting quarterback.
Kaepernick had to choose the latter option — no one is going to sign a quarterback who was last seen being benched for Gabbert, particularly if he’s the center of a media firestorm regarding his protest during the National Anthem.
Kurtenbach adds, “The truth is that Kaepernick wasn’t good enough to have teams look the other way at the ‘distraction’ they’d surely deem (or have deemed) his anthem protest….The worst thing you can be in the NFL is ‘not worth the trouble.’ That was going to be Kaepernick’s fate, fair or not.”
Gee, why would Kaepernick not be worth the trouble? Could it be the possibility of alienating fans?
The bad news is that the NFL probably won’t come to its senses any time soon and stop the National Anthem protest nonsense. The good news is that there is a fair chance that Kaepernick will be out of the NFL this time next year.
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