According to a new Yahoo Sports/YouGov survey, 44 percent of fans say that they will stop watching NFL football if the various national anthem protests persist.
What started as a lone protest by San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick during a preseason game has grown into something much more; now, fans can typically find, on “any given Sunday,” at least a handful of players on several teams throughout the league kneeling, raising fists, or making some other gesture…besides simply standing in honor of the national anthem as it is played before the start of a game.
The 44 percent number sure seems compelling, but one question it beckons is this: Is this number real?
That is, are these poll respondents really telling the truth here?
Probably not. Speaking for myself, as much as the anthem protests get under my skin, I still watch football, because I enjoy it so much. I’ve watched as much football as possible so far this season, and look forward to several games this coming Sunday and Monday.
Oh, I don’t doubt that some folks will stop watching pro football, at least for a little while, as long as the “culture of protest” continues to exist prominently as a part of the pre-game anthem ritual, but it is difficult to believe that nearly half of all fans will go cold turkey in avoiding the game they have loved for so many years.
That said, I would be careful not to confuse the idea that “these poll numbers are a lie,” which they may well be, to some extent, with the belief that NFL fans are entirely unchanged by these athletes showing such disrespect to one of the nation’s most revered and important symbols of national unity, loyalty, and patriotism. While I don’t see it as likely that 44 percent of fans will quit watching football in the way the poll suggests, I do think that if this aforementioned culture of protest sticks around and becomes a fixture at some level…that the crazed devotion for which football fans are famous will, indeed, diminish. How a drop in that devotion is ultimately manifested remains to be seen, but it seems a safe bet that the record attendance numbers, TV ratings, and revenue that have made the NFL what it has been for years will permanently come back to earth, once fans conclude that the game they love is not only no longer a refuge from the leftist politics they largely eschew, but has, in fact, become a vehicle for them.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large