As National Football League players continue to take a knee during the national anthem, the league continues to bleed money with no end in sight. Now it is being reported that the NFL and their television network partners will lose about $500 million by the time the Super Bowl rolls around.
This huge loss in revenue was inevitable, and advertisers and partners of the NFL faced angry fans boycotting their products. One of the first advertisers to pull their support of the NFL was CEO Allan Jones, of Check Into Cash. In addition to owning a chain of check cashing stores, Mr. Jones provided wardrobes for NBC sportscasters, and had several advertisement spots during NFL games. In response to the disrespect the NFL has shown toward the national anthem and the fans, Mr. Jones cancelled his business with the NFL, and in a release statement said, “Our companies will not condone unpatriotic behavior. When I see Colin Kaepernick lecturing the ‘oppressed’ wearing a Fidel Castro T-shirt you realize the hypocrisy to this stupidity. I love America. They have the right to protest and I have the right to turn off the channel and place our ads elsewhere. The next time someone asks the public to finance a stadium this will have a very long-term effect. These guys should really be the lead plaintiffs in the head injury cases – that’s the only jury that will find sympathy”.
Adding to the damage, a more prominent and well-known advertiser has recently pulled their “official sponsor” support with the NFL. At the beginning of the month, the CEO of Papa Johns Pizza, John Schnatter, had a conference call with fellow Papa Johns executives, and the details of what was said during that call were released. The now infamous conference call started off with CEO John Schnatter saying, “The NFL has hurt us. We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.” Pointing out the obvious lack of leadership on the part of NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell, Schnatter said, “Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.” In addition to being a former “official sponsor” of the NFL, Papa Johns had deals with 23 separate NFL teams who are now suffering from Papa Johns pulling their support for them.
Fans continue to demonstrate how upset they are with the league as they continue to tune out and spend their discretionary income and time elsewhere. This extended boycott is having a dramatic effect against the NFL, with league executives in a panic about what is coming next. Simply finding an end to these national anthem protests will likely not bring fans back. Due to poor leadership on the part of Commissioner Rodger Goodell, who is on the bad side of many team owners, fans are staying away from the NFL and are likely never to return. The damage done to the NFL brand seems to be irreversible at this point unless there is a change in policy and leadership.
Further demonstrating the damage protesting players have caused, NBC’s Pro Football Talk released rating numbers for the Thanksgiving holiday. Last year when the Vikings played the lions, that game showed a rating of 11.4, which is a decrease of 12.3% from last year when the two teams met. In the Cowboys versus Chargers game, there was a decrease in viewership of 20.5%, with a rating of 12.4 for this Thanksgiving. These numbers clearly demonstrate that fans are still tuning out and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
Back in October of this year, Brian Goff, a contributor with Forbes Magazine reported, “Last year’s seepage has turned into a major break in the dam. The league is now down about three million viewers per game from 2013 and 2014. When the specific team’s appearing, the scope of the telecast and the week of the season are taken into account, the decline is even more dramatic: more than four million viewers, or in excess of 20%.” The money, which the NFL is losing, will have lasting ramifications for next season, and these protesting players will soon find out how the free market really works.
The NFL still has not publicly admitted that their poor ratings and unhappy advertisers are due to their disrespectful players. However, business analysts and fans know the truth. Commissioner Rodger Goodell has failed the league and has allowed the inmates to run the prison. As long as the league and the NFLPA supports this disrespect to America, the NFL will never recover. Just like AIG Insurance, the NFL is not too big to fail.