NFL social justice advocacy impacts network ratings, viewership


Ani Pradeep

Avid NFL fans Akash Pradeep and Bhanu Ravindran watch the Packers vs Saints game on Sunday September 27, 2020. Ravindran watches the game in support of the league’s use of their social platform for protest while Pradeep looks away in disapproval.

Ani Pradeep, News Editor

Recent calls for social justice have sparked numerous protests around the world, prompting  celebrities of all kinds to utilize their enormous platforms to advocate for equality,  including the National Football League. Consequently, viewership has significantly reduced.

For years, the NFL has refused to comment on political issues in society. In fact, when Quarterback Colin Kaepernik kneeled down for the national anthem in 2016, NFL commissioners condemned and fined Kaepernick.  A week after Kapearnik’s demonstration, NFL ratings went down by 11%. Clearly, there is a percent of the sports-lovers who want to keep sports and social advocacy separate.

 Now, with the Black Lives Matter movement having gained momentum, the NFL is making speaking up on these issues a priority. This means designing helmets with the names of those affected by police brutality such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Moreover, during the playing of the national anthem, teams have the option to stay in the locker room, kneel, or join their arms in unity. 

On the other side of the coin, a number of fans complained about these demonstrations. In addition, the avid football fans of Pleasant Valley are divided on the NFL’s new agenda. Senior Sid Sharma says, “Their job is not only to play sports but to also raise awareness on social injustice, and they have every constitutional right to do so. they are in a position of influence, and they should continue to raise awareness so that more people can hop on board.”

There are also students who disagree with the new direction the NFL has gone in. An anonymous college student  claims, “Ever since I started watching football, it has been an escape from the stress of my life. Now, by mixing politics with the sport, I have to worry about being lectured by the game I have loved forever which upsets me. While I support calling out for social justice, the latest actions of the NFL make me want to not watch it.”

Furthermore, a telephone questionnaire showed that 32% of viewers are less likely to watch the games this year due to politicization. They believe that by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, the NFL is forcing opposing views on spectators. The official statistics on viewership changes have not yet been determined, but due to the onset of the coronavirus and a new political landscape, ratings and viewership will look very different than previous years.