It’s week six in the season and NFL players are continuing to protest the national anthem, though not as many as before.
According to Breitbart, the backlash from fans is widespread and undoubtedly causing concern for NFL executives hoping to move past the controversy. During Sunday’s games, the stadiums were littered with empty seats as thousands of fans refused to show up for the games.
A Twitter user known as Bradley Wilson posted this photo showing many empty seats at the Houston Texans game.
A user by the name of Fistful of Doom posted another photo of numerous empty seats at the Jacksonville Jaguars game with the caption, “You know who isn’t winning? The NFL. This was kickoff time in Jacksonville. Look at those empty seats!”
These photos of empty stadiums give an inside view of the backlash from many NFL fans upset by the ongoing national anthem protests. It also goes without saying that a continual boycott against attending games is likely hurting the NFL’s bottom line.
As ESPN reported, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was hoping NFL players would stand for the games over the weekend when he sent out a letter encouraging players to stand. In the letter, he stated, “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”
He continued by saying that he respects players’ opinions, but wants the NFL to “move past this controversy” and return to a state of normalcy. “We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”
Some teams compromised in ways allowing them to continue demonstrating without disrespecting the flag, as reported by ESPN. One example was the Indianapolis Colts who wore black t-shirts that on the front said, “We will” with “Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity” on the back, and all their players stood for the anthem.
Yet practically every other team playing on Sunday had at least one player who protested in some way that was considered disrespectful by boycotting fans. Marshawn Lynch of the Oakland Raiders has continually sat during the national anthem throughout the season, and as expected, was seated during Sunday’s game. During a game in week four–at the height of the protests–he wore a t-shirt that read “EVERYBODY -VS- TRUMP.”
This refusal by some players to acknowledge their protests are offensive and find a compromise with upset fans has caused concern for TV networks partnered with the NFL, according to Sporting News. Networks like CBS, Fox, NBC, and ESPN on Sunday refused to show the protests at all, remaining in commercial breaks throughout the presentation of the flag and the national anthem–when the protests typically occur.
When the networks cut back to game footage, presenters in the stadium avoided talking about the protests or fans’ reactions. This stands in stark contrast from when these same networks covered the protests and booing fans when the protests first began.
Given that many NFL fans have boycotted watching the games, it’s understandable that TV networks would want to ignore the protests to avoid alienating their audiences. The empty stadiums show that many fans are following through on their threat to boycott the games and the financial loss is bound to be staggering.
It’s great to see that some teams have found a way to continue demonstrating without upsetting their fans, like the Colts have done. Teams like these recognize the importance of their fans and have enough respect and adoration for their fans to make compromises without abandoning their message.
The NFL is beginning to lose, as fewer people are showing up for games. Would you still go to an NFL game after the protests?
It also says something about the teams who have ignored upset fans and continued protesting in offensive and disrespectful ways. What are they saying to their fans when these players refuse to use alternate means of protesting that won’t offend anyone and doesn’t dilute their message?
If this culture of disrespect and dismissal of fans continues taking root in the NFL, then the organization is likely heading for financial disaster–and it may not recover.