There was a boycott of the NFL this weekend, but my guess is you didn’t notice it, just like you haven’t noticed any of the “NFL boycotts”. Much like every other U.S. league, NFL had its “Salute to Service” on Veterans Day weekend. It was an opportunity for the NFL to honor our servicemen and women and highlight how much the league and its players love and appreciate the military. While this is a great cause for celebration and pageantry, it also presented an opportunity for people against players kneeling to flex their muscles.
All across social media there were calls for people to leave the stadiums empty and show the NFL America would not stand for kneeling. However, that’s not what happened. In fact, not only did that not happen Veterans Day weekend, it hasn’t happened all year. NFL attendance is up from 2016 despite the President and countless others saying people should either walk out, stop watching, or stop attending all together. Here is is the raw attendance (turnstiles not tickets bought) data from the 2016 and 2017:


I have been saying for months now that the NFL is not dying, and that “boycotts” are having little economic impact despite what people say. The truth of the matter is many people say they are boycotting the NFL, but aren’t really boycotting the NFL. Hence, I have received emails and had many conversations with people who tell their friends and family they are boycotting the NFL but are secretly still watching and keeping up with the league. People said they would boycott the Dodgers and baseball for allowing Black players. They said they would stop watching football, baseball, and basketball after work stoppages. Reality is, they always come back it the product is good.
George, so why are the NFL ratings down? I’ll give you the three reasons that I believe are obvious, clear as day, and neither involves politics or protests.

1.  Oversaturation/Streaming- There is literally so much NFL that it has lost its exclusivity. NFL fans wanted more content and demanded it. So, the league gave them Thursday night, NFL RedZone, and the ability to live stream games. Everything was going as planned and the NFL was winning, but now with streaming services available traditional television ratings have suffered. The league lost in a way because I no longer have to be tethered to my couch to enjoy football. That means my wife and kids can get me to do more things with my Sunday’s because I have the game in my pocket. I can watch as much or as little as I want at weddings, furniture shopping with my wife, or at my kid’s extracurricular activities. Most of my Sunday football watching is at my kids games on the iPad or phone. The games have become less special because there are games days per week in addition to all the ancillary content available. You might love tacos and think they are the best food in the world. Try having tacos three to four days per week for 5 months for years and see how you feel about tacos. Also, online streaming is not factored into NFL ratings and neither are all cable providers. So as people “cut the cord” or change providers data become inaccurate.

2. Social Media- I believe the reason people watch live sporting events is for the fear of being left out. Nobody wants to be the guy or girl who can’t participate in the work water cooler, barbershop, or party conversation because they didn’t “see what happened”. Social media has made it possible for you to not have seen one minute of a sporting event but see every must see moment in near real time. As soon as something happens, whether it’s a touchdown, bad call, or broken leg if you open up your social media accounts it’s just like you saw it live. So there is no need for casual fans that just care about the conversation to tune in to anything except the highlights. Think about how social media is affecting how people consume highlights on platforms like FS1 and ESPN. FS1 cut their nightly highlight shows. ESPN has declining viewership on theirs.

3. Content- There are more bad games. Period. I love football, but some of these matchups are boring, vanilla, and have no compelling stories. Why on earth would anyone go out of their way to tune in to a Dolphins, Browns, Chargers, Jaguars (I know they are good), Bills, or Bears game right now? There aren’t enough subplots and the game is not as entertaining.
I believe people are boycotting the NFL, however, logic and data suggests that those boycotters are not having nearly the economic impact they believe they are. More people are attending NFL games, and NFL network ratingsare through the roof. Less people are watching television, and the entire landscape of television and viewership is changing in general. Despite what many news outlets told you, the J.D. Power actually said that only 12 percent of the fans it surveyed said they watched fewer NFL games last season, with 27 percent of people saying they watched more and 62 percent saying they watched just as much as they had the season before. So why on earth would I believe people who “claim” to be boycotting are actually impacting NFL ratings in a meaningful way?

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