The headlines tell you those who don’t like the #takeaknee movement have the supporters beat by a 12-percent margin in a recent poll commissioned by ESPN.
The overall population is splitting 51 percent to 39 percent against the protests, according to the poll. Dive down from the general to the avid NFL fans, and it’s actually the other way around, though slightly, with 48 percent of avid fans supporting the protests and 47 percent opposing.
That’s still a big number, obviously, if you work in the NFL office, and your goal is to keep the billions rolling in, and know intuitively that the best way to do so is have all 95 percent of those people agreeing that the NFL rocks.
But if you’re inclined to try to find silver linings, there’s one there: the negativity with the protests is resonating more with non-fans.
And then, even among the avids, however they come down on the protests being right or wrong, it’s not affecting their consumption, on the whole. The poll asked all respondents how the protests have impacted their interest in the NFL, and the diehards who don’t care or say the protests actually have them more interested outnumber those who are less interested by a greater than 2:1 margin.
So, we’ve gone from 51 percent of the general population being against the protests, to 47 percent of the hardcore fans being against them, all the way to 31 percent who say the protests have made them less interested in the product.
Again, if you make money off the NFL, the idea that only 31 percent of the fan base being upset still isn’t good, though you also have to assume that even this number doesn’t reflect the bottom-line impact in terms of the avid fans who might have decided to never have anything to do with the NFL again.
To emphasize, we’re talking about the diehards here. It’s not like we’re talking about diehard fans of Coca-Cola deciding to never again have a Coke and a smile over something the company did, and they can just start drinking Pepsi.
Yes, there’s college football, in terms of comparable alternatives, but a lot of the diehards already have their allegiances to that product, which from a TV and live-event perspective is largely offered on Saturdays, as the first part of a weekend double feature with the NFL on Sundays.
And there are other things these diehards who might decide that they no longer want to support the NFL with their TV time and event attendance (and memorabilia purchases) can do on Sundays. More family time, for example, more time at church, taking the dogs for a walk, reading.
But, um, come on, we’re talking about avid football fans here. No offense, but the demographic doesn’t skew toward the NPR end of the spectrum.
Which is why you only have 31 percent saying they’re less interested in the NFL because of the protests, and TV ratings for the NFL, despite what our facts-challenged president has been trying to sell of late as part of his ongoing effort to get America to divorce itself, are actually up this year, yes, only slightly, but, hey, up is up, and if you’re that guy working in the NFL office who stays up at night worrying about such things, it has to look pretty damn good, considering the millions of dollars in free publicity our goofy president has generated to get people to change the channel.
The NFL will ride out this storm.
Back to the bigger ones that it will not be able to fight back forever, most notably, the issues with the long-term health of NFL players.
The more we learn about CTE, the more the inevitable will be the sport’s fade from prominence to lower-tier status.
But that’s another story for another day.
Column by Chris Graham