Sports | September 28, 2017 2:53 pm

Why NFL Ratings Cannot Win Against President Trump

Bloomberg writes that 'in politicized times, there is no safe middle of the road.'

NFL Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs the ball against the Chicago Bears in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The NFL ratings are now being scrutinized more than ever before, thanks to President Donald Trump’s insults toward the league and the protests during the national anthem.

But Bloomberg writes that the obsession with the numbers is a major headache for the NFL and its “hyper-protective commissioner,” Roger Goodell. For years, the NFL could control its own brand and narrative. It was came off as a strong “symbol of American vitality,” writes Bloomberg. But now, it seems like it is something “in need of saving.”

Allen Adamson, head of BrandSimple Consulting, told Bloomberg that he thinks the NFL should stop discussing politics and just focus on the game.

But at this point, is that even possible?

NFL’s ratings started to fall in 2016, but it was not a big deal at first, because the league has long-term contracts with broadcasters, writes Bloomberg, such as the one with ESPN which lasts until 2021 and Fox, CBS and NBC, who are all locked in until 2022.

According to social media, Bloomberg writes, there are plenty of reasons the ratings are dropping. Maybe it’s the hurricanes, maybe it’s fears over players’ health, maybe it’s just because millennials aren’t interested. But the idea that Trump has been pushing is that the ratings are dropping because of players protesting police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem, a trend that started with Colin Kaepernick. Trump commented on Kaepernick’s protest last Friday, saying that players who disrespect the flags should be kicked off the field and fired. He went as far as to call players “sons of bitches.”

These comments led to massive silent protests by players, coaches, and owners during the Sunday and Monday night games.

So, of course, everyone was wondering about the ratings. Bloomberg reports that it was a “mixed bag.” CBS saw a boost compared to 2016, but NBC and Fox experienced a decline. ESPN’s ratings for the Cowboys vs. Cardinals rose 63 percent.

But this did not stop Trump and conservative media from saying that the ratings had dropped. Fans who agree with Trump started the hashtag #PunchThemInTheWallet on social media and called for boycotts of the league. Trump’s criticism isn’t coming out of the blue, he has criticized the NFL’s ratings for years, mainly in the context of “bashing one of his perceived antagonists,” writes Bloomberg, like CNN or Barack Obama. But now it seems like he is focusing solely on the NFL.

Richard Levick, a crisis communications expert, told Bloomberg that the NFL was able to navigate this weekend’s challenges well, but has plenty left to face.

“In this era of hyper-politicization — which is being driven by the White House into everything from the Boy Scouts to the NFL — there is no safe middle of the road,” he said to Bloomberg.