Thursday night’s NFL season opener showed a 12 percent drop in viewers from last year and was the third year in a row that ratings declined. This year’s overnight rating of 13.4, was the lowest since 2009 and shows how much the NFL has been hurt by the anthem protests. Taking both TV and online streams into account, total viewership was 19.5 million this year compared against 22.2 million in 2017 and 25.4 million in 2016. Fans have been offended by what they see as millionaire athletes disrespecting the sacrifice of service members and have let their wallets do the talking.
When Colin Kaepernick first sat down during the National Anthem in 2016, the San Francisco 49ers released a statement saying, “We recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.” As the season progressed, more and more players choose to protest and soon the league had a crisis on their hands. Instead of instructing their players to respect the Flag and the National Anthem, the NFL choose to instead lambast President Trump for his comments criticizing the protests. In the offseason the NFL attempted to placate both the SJWs and patriotic fans by allowing players to stay in the locker room during the anthem. Fans were not happy with the decision and continue to shift to other entertainment options.
Instead of heeding the NFL’s cautionary tale, Nike chose to unveil a new commercial depicting Kaepernick with the motto “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The company lost $3.75 Billion in market capitalization and has faced significant backlash from consumers. Youtube has been flooded with videos of fans burning their Nike clothing and #BoycottNike has been trending on Twitter.
The takeaway for companies now is that making the foray into politics will hurt financial performance. In an attempt to appease a small, but vocal minority of radical left-wing activists, both the NFL and Nike have alienated everyday Americans. If they continue to allow politics to dictate how they operate their businesses, they will not remain in business much longer.