Using NFL games to protest racism and police brutality didn’t begin with Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. It began in 2014 with five St. Louis Rams players propagating the “hands up, don’t shoot” lie, long after it was proven false by 40 eyewitness accounts. The NFL chose to not discipline those players – and why would they? Why rock the profit boat?
Those angered by anthem-kneeling and other protests often cite declining TV ratings to show that the NFL is paying a price. While TV ratings are down, the focus on ratings is misplaced. NFL revenue rose from $8 billion in 2010 to $13 billion in 2016, is expected to rise another $1 billion in 2017, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell projects revenues of $25 billion by the year 2025.
More importantly: profits rose 10% in 2016 compared to 2015. Profits are where it’s at, not revenue. NFL profits are 60% of revenue, an eye-poppingly high profit margin.
Whatever side NFL owners and coaches take on the issue of protests, they side with profits. When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones locked arms with other Cowbabies and kneeled before a Monday Night Football, it’s unlikely he was thinking “this action will hurt my profits, but I’m willing to stand…er…kneel on principle.”
As long as NFL profits remain strong, the NFL will continue to support the “right” of players to protest in stadiums. Should profits stall, their “right” to protest will remain, but perhaps be moved to free speech zones outside of the stadiums for the sake of the “fan experience.”