“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,” F. Scott Fitzgerald once said. A new football season is here, and with it a fresh start for players, coaches and fans everywhere. It’s also a new opportunity for more of America to actually understand what Colin Kaepernick is really about, what the issues are that he’s trying to bring attention to and why they’re so divisive.
Kaepernick Nike Commercial
Once we can finally get more of America on the same page regarding just the basic facts relevant to this topic, then we can fully understand why Nike’s selecting Kaepernick to be the face of the 30th anniversary “Just do it” campaign is such a big deal. This is the storyline that’s overshadowing all others on NFL kickoff weekend, and deservedly so. That’s why we owe it to ourselves to eradicate the misnomers and accept the basic truths inherent to this explosive topic.
Fact: People Watch the NFL these days for a lot of different reasons, but the National Anthem isn’t one of them
Many Americans watch the National Football League in order to root for, and sometimes against, specific players and teams. However, many more are tuning in these days to root for their fantasy football team points and their betting interests. This cross-section of the viewership saw an explosion in growth when DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) took off.
National Anthem Prop Betting Odds
The opening weekend will actually see National Anthem Prop betting. If you want to be on the total number of players to not stand for the national anthem in Week 1, the Over is 34.5 (-115), and the Under 34.5 (-115). There’s also action on which team will have the most players not stand for the Star Spangled Banner on kickoff weekend.
Here are the latest Odds
Seattle Seahawks -200
San Francisco 49ers +175
Miami Dolphins +400
Field (Any other team) +300
Fact: Colin Kaepernick, and other players who kneel/knelt during the Star Spangled Banner are protesting police brutality and racial inequity
If you honestly believe that Kap and those who followed his lead are protesting against the American military, or the United States itself, well, I feel sorry for you, but you’re going to need to wake up some time. There are numerous Veterans groups that have been extremely vocal in their support for Kaepernick for quite some time.
On matters of patriotism and old glory, it’s time to turn off the character artists on cable news for good and instead listen to the men and women who actually served. Kaepernick is raising issues that won’t be going away any time soon, so you’re going to want to be on the right side of history with this one.
Apex Marketing firm found that Nike’s brand exposure since news of the ad campaign broke this past weekend was worth $163.5 million overall. That exposure is of course very polarizing, as the firm determined that $49.1 million of Nike’s brand exposure was negative, $48.8 million was neutral and $65.6 million was positive.
It’s great that Nike is bringing so much added awareness to Kaeperenick, but the ad campaign doesn’t make any mention of his cause. All they’re really promoting is general commodified dissent, not the call to address racially motivated and egregious injustice within the law enforcement system.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Fact: More of America agrees with Kaepernick’s ideals and stances than the media would have you believe
The media establishment has a truly fatal flaw in that they hold an impractical ideal of “presenting both sides” of an issue, even when one side is disconnected from reality. The media forces a narrative that focuses on division instead of unity.
The American Civil Liberties Union released public opinion polling a year ago showing consensus support for criminal justice reform across the ideological and political spectrum. The ACLU trumpets that two-thirds of Americans actually agree with Colin Kaepernick.
Fact: NFL ratings began to tumble before Kaepernick took a knee, and the Kap backlash is not what’s keeping ratings down
Adnan Virk (@adnanESPN) is an on-air personality at ESPN who appears on multiple programs and possesses expertise in several sports. He was gracious enough to do a podcast with me last year. You can listen below.
“You’re either a NFL fan or you’re not. Ratings were down 10 percent (last year), ratings are down again this year, you can’t just blame politics again, you can’t say just it’s because Trump’s base is boycotting the NFL – that’s ridiculous,” said Virk before positing his theory as to what’s happening within the NFL.
“What I do think it is, is that there’s this shift now, this whole theory we had that the NFL is too big to fail is not necessarily accurate. They can have ratings go down just like all of television.
“It’s not like the anthem is three hours of people kneeling, it’s not always televised, so even if you were so aggrieved by it, you’re so offended that anyone would do this — wouldn’t you just skip the first ten minutes?
“You’d be like, ‘Alright kick-off is at one, I’ll tune in at 1:10.’ It’s just the stupidest thing ever.”
NFL ratings are plummeting due to supply and demand, and emerging economic forces in a rapidly changing media landscape. There’s nothing partisan, political or even ideological about this.
Dom Caristi, a telecommunications professor at Ball State University, says the NFL ratings problem lies with the three Ds — dilution of audience, decline in viewers of traditional television and divided audiences.
By divided, we mean segmented across multiple channels and viewing devices, not ideologically divided.
Dilution of the product, or too many football games, is the first major problem, he says.
“Sure, there are some diehard NFL fans who want to watch only the NFL, but for many casual viewers, college and professional football are nearly interchangeable,” Caristi says.
“It’s not just the increased availability of NFL games but also increased college game availability. At the height of the season, football fans can watch seven days a week. At some point, the audience is diluted by so many games.”
Another factor is declining numbers of people are watching television.
“Television — whether sports, dramas or game shows — just doesn’t have the allure it once had. The industry has less audience overall.”
Caristi also points out that not only are fewer people watching television, but also their attention is divided because of the increase in the number of channels.
“Ratings have declined because there are so many more viewing choices. The audience is fragmented more than it’s ever been. Streaming media makes it possible to watch virtually anything — current TV shows or movies from 50 years ago. TV competes for audience with all forms of streaming video, including YouTube, Netflix, etc.”
Fact: You can’t, in reality, completely separate politics and sports
The notion that sports and politics don’t mix is not true today, and it never has been. If you stand and sing along to the Star Spangled Banner, with your hand on your heart you are expressing a political opinion. It’s the very definition of making a political gesture because you’re publicly conveying your loyalty and affection for the idea of the American nation-state.
When a current or former American military service member is being honored at a game and you join the standing ovation, that is taking a political action. You are recognizing and acknowledging the promotion of the American military-industrial complex by standing at attention.
These political actions have been a part of sports for generations. If you take umbrage with Kaepernick or Nike or their supporters, you can’t credibly counter their argument with “get your politics out of my sports,” or “I don’t like my sports being politicized.” There isn’t a firewall between the two entities in 2018, and there never actually was.