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NFL, Too Big To Fail?

“I was thinking about football when I wrote it. I wanted a participation song, something that the fans could latch on to. Of course, I’ve given it more theatrical subtlety than an ordinary football chant. I suppose it could also be construed as my version of ‘I Did It My Way.’ We have made it, and it certainly wasn’t easy. No bed of roses as the song says. And it’s still not easy.” – Freddie Mercury, singer, Queen.

How can you make a small fortune in the football business? Start with a large fortune, let Roger Goodell manage it, and soon enough, you’ll have a small fortune. – Kelly Burke, 2017

The NFL was a juggernaut just two years ago. NASCAR was flaming out and the NFL was on the uptick. Huge crowds, massive new stadiums and incredible television payouts meant that the NFL was America’s favorite sport. Sure, there were issues: pending labor strife, concussion (CTE) problems and, as always, disparity between big media teams and smaller market teams. But those things were just a blip on the screen.

Then Colin Kaepernick came along. Can one player, or in his case, former player, bring down a league? No, he can’t. But the NFL’s handling of that issue can.

I’m not smart enough to tell you the answer, but doing what the NFL is doing seems illogical. They alternate between sticking their heads in the sand or advocating free speech for players. They appear intent at vilifying their base, to appease a crowd that doesn’t go to games anyway. How many snowflakes go to games? Just the ones with a rich boyfriend!

Let’s examine the free speech issue. Can player’s wear pink socks to honor their mother fighting breast cancer? Yes, but only in October, the rest of the year the player will be fined. Can a player wear Beats headphones during an interview? Nope, the NFL has a deal with Bose. Can the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team, wear a badge to honor the 5 murdered Dallas officers? Nope, NFL isn’t interested. Can Odell Beckham act like a dog, peeing on a fire hydrant, after scoring a touchdown. Nope, that was disrespectful. So when the NFL says this is about free speech, they are being hypocrites.

Let’s examine the head in the sand method. Before President Trump chimed in about the NFL, many teams took the attitude of laissez faire. I see nothing, I hear nothing, I do nothing. While that was irritating to many fans, it is what you do when you can’t figure out what to do. Viewership was down about 11%, but stadiums were still selling out and so far bigger and better stadiums are still coming online. “It’ll blow over” appeared to be the mantra.

But then, this past weekend, in a show of solidarity with stupid, the owners started linking up and having their entire team hold hands, while some knelt, so that the fans would really get irked. To the point of booing. During the National Anthem.

While the NFL struggles with how to deal with social injustice, I know people who have cancelled their NFL TV package. I know people who have not seen a game this year and indicate they won’t watch any game this year. How can the NFL sustain those kind of losses?  How do they get those fans back. You know, the ones that pay the salaries of the multi-millionaire complainers. Remember Woolworths? Sears? K-Mart? Too big to fail, right? If you don’t adapt to changing times, you die. The NFL isn’t dead. Yet. But how they handle this National Anthem issue might be a harbinger for bad times to come.

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