The NFL faced many problems this season.
Anti-American anthem protests and egregious officiating were two of the biggest concerns for a league in flux.
Commissioner Roger Goodell insists the league is as healthy as ever, but one writer has sources who say differently.
Sports Illustrated football columnist Peter King says the NFL is deeply worried about the sharp decline in viewership over the past two seasons.
A league that has seen steady growth for decades suddenly saw a drop in interest.
In an appearance Friday on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King said that the NFL was “very concerned” about the decline in ratings this year.
Many attribute the ratings drop to the politicization of the NFL, while King said he believed it stemmed from the younger generation moving to other sports.
“I think the league’s very concerned,” he told co-host Michael Wilbon.
He continued, “I do think the one thing that is very, very concerning: the numbers in youth football that are moving away from football and going to other sports.”
According to King, the sport’s concussion and CTE issues are the main reasons why parents are not allowing their children to play.
King offered up a solution, saying the NFL should “get behind” youth flag football or else they will lose more parents.
Some polls show that the liberal progressive politics behind the anthem protests were the driving force for the drop in viewership, but head trauma is an issue the sport must solve.
From The Chicago Tribune:
It has been 12 years since the first stories about CTE hit the national media. Since then, the news about football’s health risks has rarely been good.
High-profile players such as Junior Seau and Dave Duerson were diagnosed with the disease, caused by repeated head trauma, after taking their own lives. Less accomplished ex-players have been diagnosed with it, too, including some whose football careers ended in high school.
Researchers have yet to establish the prevalence of CTE or other neurological problems at any level of football, but that hasn’t stopped some from reaching stark conclusions.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist whose discovery of CTE was chronicled in the 2015 movie “Concussion,” recently told an audience at the New York Press Club that allowing kids under 18 to play football “is the definition of child abuse.”
It is against this background that youth teams are trying to persevere. Leagues around Chicago told the Tribune that their participation numbers have declined in recent years, sometimes substantially, as concussion worries spread.
The Chicagoland Youth Football League, which hosts teams from nearly 50 towns, saw almost 10,000 kids playing a decade ago, according to President Geoff Meyer. Last year, he said, it was down to 7,500.
Though he said the fear of head injuries is a big reason for the drop, he said other factors are also working against the sport, from a shrinking teen population to what he perceives as a lack of discipline among the young.
“America is a whole lot worse without football and it just drives me crazy,” he said. “It has done so much for so many people.”
Whether it’s protests, concussions, or bad officiating, the league can no longer pretend it doesn’t have a massive problem on its hands.
Two years of sharp decline could be the makings of a trend instead of an anomaly.