An entire season of the “scandal” plagued National Football League has finally come to an end, save for the omega game, Super Bowl LII. As you may recall, the 2017 season was surrounded by controversy that started in the pre-season and blossomed its ugly head for the better part of the rest of the season. Players took a knee, sat, raised fists and/or linked arms during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
President Trump took up the issue on Twitter several times, first condemning the actions, then praising coaches and owners who made policies to support standing during the national anthem.
All the controversy caused NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to respond several times to the issue. Goodell largely stood behind the players and silently supported their protests. He did finally address it with a letter to the NFL owners and teams, but strayed from taking any sort of a stance on the issue.
The media had a hay day with the protests and covered the pre-game festivities more than they covered actual in-game highlights. The hype finally died down and nary a word was heard about it for almost all of the playoffs in January… but that all would soon change.
NBC will be broadcasting Super Bowl LII this year and on January 9th, NBC Super Bowl Executive Fred Gaudelli made it clear that they would be covering any pre-game protests that occur. The NFL has made no official statements regarding any potential protests in the big game, but their actions spoke louder than words with the most recent decision.
The organization “American Veterans” was invited to place an ad in the official Super Bowl LII program, but when the organization submitted their proposal, the NFL took a proverbial knee. See the ad for yourself:
The NFL largely turned their backs to the controversy all season, but now as a veterans organization wants to ask fans to stand up for their country and their veterans, the NFL rings the bell loud and clear. Brian McCarthy, NFL spokesman, said that the Super Bowl program has “never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”
This statement is interesting because the NFL had a dress code and behavior policy that prohibited players from promoting or advertising one’s own personal views and opinions, but apparently protesting the national
anthem isn’t included. These rules prohibited players like Tim Tebow from placing scripture verses on his eye black, but didn’t cover other expressions of speech such as taking a knee. Players are given hefty fines for using the wrong shoes, or writing on their shoes, but sitting during the Star-Spangled Banner is entirely fine.
It is unfortunate that politics and political statements have inserted itself in the middle of a game that so many love, no matter their race, religion, political viewpoints, etc. Football brought people together under one team; democrats joined with republicans to cheer on their teams, but sadly the comradery is at risk of falling apart as more players push a narrative that alienates many of their fans. In fact, over the past 2 years, NFL viewership has declined by several million views when compared to the previous year. Will Super Bowl Sunday bring back the lost viewers?
Because of the NBC statement, players know that they will be given a huge platform on February 4th. What will the players do while Pink sings the national anthem prior to Super Bowl LII? The NFL has already taken away a platform for the Veterans, so only time will tell. NBC stands to lose a good chunk of viewers if they politicize the game on Super Bowl Sunday.