The 2021 NFL season is already off to a rocky start.
COVID-19 protocols are already causing headaches for the league.
Now the NFL got some bad news about one league-sponsored TV series.
The NFL has been a magnet for controversy the past few years.
Head injuries, porous officiating, and off-the-field arrests seemed like the biggest obstacles for the NFL.
But that all changed when former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the anti-American anthem protests.
Since then, the league has been marred by divisive protests that have driven down fan attendance and television ratings.
The 2020 season nearly didn’t happen because of COVID, and empty stadiums due to the virus dampened enthusiasm for the sport.
And the 2021 season is off to an inauspicious beginning.
The HBO series Hard Knocks turned in some disappointing ratings; the show that features an inside look into an NFL preseason was down in viewership by a staggering 59%.
From Sports Media Watch:
“The first two episodes of HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ averaged 317,000 and 273,000 viewers respectively, up from the corresponding episodes last year (273K and 251K), but dramatically lower than the first two episodes in 2019 (705K and 733K). ‘Hard Knocks’ has now failed to crack the 400,000 viewer mark in eight-straight episodes, compared to zero such episodes in the previous five seasons combined.”
Hard Knocks has been a ratings bonanza for the league, but not even the popular show can drum up excitement.
One of the big challenges NFL commissioner Roger Goodell faces this year is vaccine hesitancy among many players, including marquee names.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins contemplated retirement over being forced to take the COVID vaccine.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley made similar comments.
Former MVP Lamar Jackson hasn’t gotten the vaccine and he’s tested positive for COVID twice, which opens up another can of worms.
There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the efficacy of COVID tests.
It’s likely that there are many false positives, or people who have a negligible viral load but still test positive.
NFL players are all elite athletes in peak condition.
They are the least vulnerable to COVID, perhaps even less so than young children.
Also, studies show that professional athletes were not spreading COVID during games throughout all of 2020 across all sports.
Despite these facts, there remains a relentless push to vaccinate everyone.
The NFL has to carefully navigate this minefield.
Some players are adamant about not getting the vaccine, and it’s easy to see why.
Professional athletes are very conscious about what they put into their bodies.
An experimental vaccine with no longitudinal study understandably makes many of them wary.
NFL guidelines are going to make life miserable for unvaccinated players, and if a team has too many players out due to COVID, they will be forced to forfeit without any possibility of a reschedule.
The ratings for Hard Knocks shows that the NFL isn’t yet “back,” and the COVID protocols and constant protesting will ensure ratings continue to plateau.