The NFL is like a boat slowly taking on water.
The league has done a poor job managing crises over the last decade, and it has cost them dearly.
Now attendance numbers are in for a rival league, and the NFL should be concerned.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been one of the most embattled commissioners in major sports history.
All leagues have dealt with strikes, lockouts, steroids, and a host of other issues.
But Goodell has overseen the NFL during a particularly rocky time, and many of the bumps in the road have been his own doing.
Goodell has been slow to act on many issues, which has made the problems worse.
For example, Goodell has been known to mete out arbitrary suspensions for minor infractions, but initially gave runningback Ray Rice a slap on the wrist after an ugly domestic violence incident.
But the most glaring example is his handling of the anti-American anthem protests started by Colin Kaepernick.
Goodell’s lack of direct action led to the protest becoming a runaway scandal.
The mainstream media were all too eager to pounce on the issue.
A major consequence of Kaepernick’s protest was the polarization of the fan base.
Some fans boycotted the league in solidarity with Kaepernick, but many more boycotted to show their disgust with the league allowing the protests to spread.
One team in particular battled attendance issues, but their problem was broader than Kaepernick.
The Los Angeles Chargers are desperately awaiting the opening of their new football stadium (shared with the Los Angeles Rams) in 2020, because right now fans are not going to the games.
The Chargers averaged a mere 25,335 fans in 2017, and saw a minor uptick in 2018.
But the Chargers’ worse average home attendance in San Diego was 57,024, the year before they left for Los Angeles.
It should also be concerning because the Chargers put a quality product on the field in 2018–making the second round of the playoffs—and still couldn’t draw a crowd.
Meanwhile, the brand new Alliance of American Football (AAF) saw promising ratings for their first two weeks of action, and the San Antonio franchise drew better attendance than the Chargers.
The official attendance for today’s @aafcommanders game @Alamodome is 29,176, which is more than the teams inaugural game last week. Another impressive showing by San Antonio. #TakeCommand #Commanders @TheAAF #KSATsports #KSATnews pic.twitter.com/qJW2O4EW6s
— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) February 17, 2019
The AAF doesn’t pose a threat to the NFL, but the upstart league’s straight-forward approach to football, and not social justice activism, proves that fans are still hungry for pure escapism.
Players aren’t kneeling, or protesting owners for causes unrelated to them, or engaging in any other distractions.
They’re just playing football.
The NFL should be taking notes.