Ever since Colin Kaepernick decided to bring his politics onto the football field, a Pandora’s box has been opened that threatens to decimate the NFL.
The national anthem protests have the league walking on a tight rope. Because football is America’s most popular sport–beloved by people from both sides of the political aisle–the NFL risks alienating fans no matter what it does.
But the NFL’s base support is patriotic Americans. Professional football, which presents itself as the quintessential American sport, has succeeded through association with the nation’s traditional values of God, family, and country.
Those are the values most highly prized in red states. And it’s red state fans the league risks losing with the current highly-politicized climate.
Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch’s controversial protest of the US national anthem while in Mexico on Sunday is just the kind of thing that’s angering red America.
Even former Detroit Lions linebacker Caleb Campbell called the move out on Fox Business:
“If you’re going to fight injustices and you’re going to sit or kneel for injustices here in America, listen…injustice is injustice no matter where you’re at so, you know, while you’re kneeling for injustices here in America, let’s also kneel or sit for the injustices that Mexico clearly has in their home country.”
Campbell went on to say that Lynch’s Mexico protest set NFL activism back. “I think what Marshawn did, it almost undermined all of the work that Colin Kaepernick has done.”
He also argues it further alienated people in red states. “It’s just another reason the NFL is dead in red states, they should remove red from the logo, it’s crazy.”
Eric Schiffer, Chair of Reputation Management Consultants spelled out the hypocrisy of protesting America’s police brutality while not holding Mexico to the same standard.
“You’re talking about a justice system, police brutality on steroids in Mexico, so it was a globetrotting hypocrite in Marshawn Lynch to do this in my opinion,” Schiffer said.
Statistics back this up. According to a Wall Street Journal study, viewership of NFL games is down 8.7 percent in red states. The politically-charged national anthem protests continue to be among the top reasons fans are tuning out.
Now that the genie has been let out of the bottle, the NFL is hard-pressed to repair its standing with fans.