Monday, September 25, 2017

Disrespect? Win the Battle, Lose the War

Okay. My tongue is bleeding because I’ve been biting so hard.

I don’t know Donald Trump. I can’t tell you how he thinks. More often t than not, though, I understand the what the result of his actions might be.

Buffalo Bills players protesting the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
As Trump continues to speak directly with his constituency through social media, his supporters get an unfiltered message. Clearly, the President doesn't care for the media filter to deliver his position. When he speaks directly to voters who turn out to hear his speeches, he knows exactly the response they hope to achieve. So, when President Trump referred to NFL athletes who kneel during the National Anthem as “sons of bitches,” there's little doubt that he understood the reaction he'd affect. For folks who aren’t familiar with American history, that’s powerful imagery for some players.

I suspect that President Trump isn’t terribly fond of some NFL owners.

A recent Experian Simmons study shows that this is true demographically. Of people who identified themselves as part of the NFL fan base 83 percent were white, 64 percent were male, 51 percent were 45 years or older, only 32 percent made less than $60,000 a year, and, to finish the point, registered Republicans were 21 percent more likely to be NFL fans than registered Democrats. Another factoid: NFL fans were 59 percent more likely than the average American to have played golf in the last year.[i]

By making this and other statements relating to the behavior of some players, Mr. Trump is effectively galvanizing those players’ solidarity. It’s more than a little bit likely that Team Trump understood how his comments would be taken. More players would kneel during the National Anthem and rhetoric would compound. Likely, some of the more, well, inexperienced players would likely make an outrageous or unreasonable statement, which would, in turn, dampen the ardor of the largest among NFL demographics. A less enthusiastic fan base spends less money on tickets, broadcast products, and gear. Considering the NFL’s total annual revenue is $13.3 billion,[ii] a decrease in NFL product sales to the largest market, well, puts a big dent in owners’ asset values.

Rams and 49ers kick-off to an empty stadium.

Players who take the hook are not only caught, but they are also biting on what is so obviously isn’t even live bait.

Saints fans burn gear after players' protest.
Like I’ve already mentioned, I don’t know how Mr. Trump thinks or the nature of his end game. Is it actually something as simple as evening the score with one or more NFL owners who Mr. Trump doesn’t care for, or is the President of the United States looking downfield for more? Does he want to use his influence to force support from NFL team owners to his own ends through unprecedented political hard ball. Is Trump fan the flame of an already burning issue to rally his base for the 2020 campaign? Is it something else entirely?

One thing is certain; many of the NLF players are, well, playing into the President’s hand. Frankly, it's not a matter of whether they can. It's a matter of whether they should. Personally, I think every NFL player should stand for the two and a half minutes while a bright-eyed young American sings the Star-Spangled Banner. For those who continue to show what a majority of Americans believe is disrespect for our country and for the women and men who have died to defend it, protesters may win a battle, but lose the war.

As football players, they should readily comprehend that.

[i] “NFL: Last sports bastion of white, male conservatives.” The Great Debate. Neil Gabler. March 24, 2014.

[ii] “Thanks To Roger Goodell, NFL Revenues Projected To Surpass $13 Billion In 2016.” Forbes Magazine. Jason Belzer. February 29, 2016.

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