President Donald Trump’s feud with the NFL erupted nearly a week ago when he demanded that NFL franchise owners should “get that son of a b***h off the field” when they see players kneeling during the national anthem. Since then, league owners have discovered, to their surprise, that millions of Americans – and more importantly, millions of NFL fans – agree with the president, who encouraged them to boycott the league until it agrees to ban kneeling during the anthem.
So far, evidence suggests that fans have heeded the president’s call to boycott the league. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” last weekend recorded its worst weekly ratings in years. Overall, ratings are down 11% from last year, according to the Associated Press.
And while mainstream media outlets have insisted that there's “no evidence” to suggest that the protests have impacted television ratings, at least one survey suggests that there’s a direct link.
In what was perhaps an attempt to obscure this fact, NFL camera operators were instructed by the networks to avoid crowd shots during last weekend’s games to avoid capturing images of fans counterprotesting the protests, which involved both players and, in many cases, team owners, a few of whom locked arms with their players.
Sporting News reports that while some fans cheered the protests, many others responded with outrage. While mics picked up the boos, fans never got a chance to see the jeering fans.
The decision to ban controversial crowd shots was a wise decision by the networks, helping them avoid angering the providers of some of their most valuable programming. But from a journalistic perspective, it was a weak decision.
By covering one of the most significant days in NFL history with rose-colored glasses, the networks cheated viewers. We got an incomplete picture of what really happened in stadiums on Sunday and Monday.
Yes, the main television focus should have been on the players, coaches and owners sitting, kneeling or linking arms. But fans hold the ultimate power over the networks and the league, and they were missing in action during coverage.
Indeed, fans hold the ultimate power over the networks and the league, and they were missing in action during coverage.
A CBS spokeswoman denied to Sporting News that camera operators had been instructed to avoid crowd shots. However, as we reported, those watching the "Monday Night Football" telecast of the Cowboys-Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona, ould hear the boos from the sold-out crowd as Jerry Jones and the Cowboys collectively took a knee after the anthem in a gesture of defiance.
As Sporting News reports, during the singing of the anthem before Giants-Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Fox stuck to up-close, ground-up shots of players, coaches and owners. The only image of fans was one long shot showing them clapping before the network cut to commercial.
Maybe next time, networks will accurately portray what’s happening at the games. Or perhaps by next week's games, the controversy will be over after the league's owners decide endorsing controversial protests just isn't worth the hit to their bottom lines.