The NFL is starting to lose a lot of support.
The anti-American anthem protests have soured millions of fans on a league that allowed to disrespectful acts to fester for too long.
Now the ugly protests have cost one NFL franchise a very important and influential sponsorship.
The NFL’s Image Problem
In recent years, the NFL has had to deal with scandals involving concussions, terrible officiating, and domestic violence.
With varying degrees of success, the NFL has been able to weather those storms and maintain its popularity.
But the anger over the anti-American anthem protests has only grown. Since the unpatriotic outburst started in 2016, the NFL has seen stadium attendance drop, television ratings fall, and advertising revenue decline.
High-profile fans like Tennessee Congresswoman Diane Black canceled their season tickets, prompting some franchises to apologize for the anti-American displays.
New Rules, Old Results
For the first time in years, the NFL saw its popularity decline for two straight seasons, an alarming sign for any multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, after sitting on his hands for the entire 2016 and 2017 campaigns, updated the national anthem policy.
The new rule required players to stand and show respect for the anthem or remain in the locker room. If players still chose to protest, their respective teams would be subject to a fine, and each team could punish the offending players however it saw fit.
However, some teams immediately came out and said they would not punish their players for protesting the anthem.
The owners also agreed to earmark $89 million to the players for activist causes of their choosing. Despite these concessions, players were furious over the new anthem policy, which is now being reworked.
Some players have chosen to continue the protests thus far during the 2018 pre-season.
Rebuilding the Brand
In an attempt to win over fans who walked away and rebuild relationships with police officers who have been demonized by the protests, teams have tried to create partnerships with police departments and pro-police organizations.
The New York Jets attempted to build such a coalition with the pro-police group Blue Lives Matter.
However, group founder Joe Imperatrice was unmoved by the Jets’ overture. In a scathing rejection, Imperatrice said:
“Although I’d love to work with an NFL team right now I feel it is not the right time…All over the United States players feel entitled to disrespect our first responders, our military members both past and present and our flag. These players make more money in a season than some people make in a lifetime and their ‘Issues’ are made up, exaggerated, and more times than not false…Once again I do appreciate the offer, but revenue we have could better be spent on the families of officers killed in the line of duty protecting the ignorance of these individuals rather than contributing to their paycheck.”
The Jets responded by saying none of their players had protested the anthem, but it didn’t help that they were one of the first teams to announce they wouldn’t reprimand any player who disrespected the anthem.
Imperatrice also pointed out that the Jets had signed runningback Isaiah Crowell, who posted a disgusting anti-cop tweet in 2016:
Posted and then deleted from Isaiah Crowell’s Instagram. pic.twitter.com/5gquTsL1Qc
— Cleveland Sports Talk (@CLEsportsTalk) July 11, 2016
Crowell deleted the tweet and apologized, but that type of imagery is impossible to forget, especially for an organization like Blue Lives Matter.
New York teams used to be known for their deference toward policemen and first responders, but the anti-American anthem protests have pushed teams into going along with vile, hate-filled, anti-police rhetoric.
The Jets have a public relations problem, and they can’t expect Blue Lives Matter to help them out now.