It looks as though NFL players are no longer taking a knee during the national anthem. According to The Washington Times, there’s a good reason for this: “None of the teams with still-active protesters has qualified for the post-season.”
By the end of the regular season, only five teams featured at least one player regularly sitting or kneeling on the sidelines for the anthem:
- Seattle Seahawks
- San Francisco 49ers
- Miami Dolphins
- New York Giant
- Oakland Raiders
Not one of those franchises made the playoffs, even though four of the five did so in the previous season. This observation has lead to speculation about whether the take-a-knee protests wound up bringing down team performance along with TV ratings.
“By their actions, the kneelers brought controversy into the locker rooms, and this kind of distraction is always going to be detrimental to team cohesiveness,” said Robert Kuykendall, a spokesman for the conservative corporate watchdog 2ndVote.
“They unfairly put their own teammates in the tough position, especially the players who believe the national anthem and the flag should be respected. Obviously, teams without the distraction were going to be more focused on the game, and that is a catalyst for success.”
Sports psychologist John F. Murray told the Times that he sees it as “a distraction,” and teams should expect problems if players perceive that their teammates are “putting a social agenda above the mission” of winning games.
Since the start of the postseason, there have been no prominent reports of kneeling or sitting. But the report acknowledges that the networks stopped televising anthem ceremonies after week three, when 200 players reacted to President Trump’s Sept. 22 suggestion that owners should fire anyone who refused to stand.
Linda Yaccarino, NBC Universal chairwoman of advertising sales, said in a Nov. 3 speech to the ad agency R/GA that advertisers had put pressure on the networks to stop showing the protest activity. “Marketers have said, ‘We will not be part of the NFL if you continue covering it,’” Yaccarino said, as reported by Business Insider.
NBC Sports executive producer Fred Gaudelli announced last week that the cameras will cover the players during the anthem ceremony at Super Bowl LII, slated for Feb. 4 in Minneapolis.
“If there are players who choose to kneel, they will be shown live,” Gaudelli told the Television Critics Association, as reported by Variety. “I would say, probably since Thanksgiving, a lot of that has kind of dissipated and died down. It’s certainly possible it could happen again.”
Nielsen data shows that NFL television ratings dropped by 9.7 percent during the 2017 regular season. The average game audience of 14.9 million was down from 16.5 million in 2016.
“A lack of protests in the postseason may be better for the league’s public image, but the long-term damage will be felt as sponsors negotiate their advertising deals for the next season,” Kuykendall observed. “Advertisers are likely to demand lower prices because of the loss of viewership.”