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NFL Popularity Plummet: Is America Ready For A New Favorite Sport? (Column)

The NFL featured three games on Thanksgiving Day, and all three of them were unwatchable.

The Detroit Lions played so poorly by getting off to such a poor start in their 30-23 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys basically quit on themselves for the season after their 28-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Giants and Washington Redskins executed so badly on offense that it was too bad that there was a winner in that game, as the Redskins won 20-10 game in a game that featured 16 punts.

“The Product Stinks”

This is no different than your typical NFL game this fall. The product stinks, and this goes back to last year. Anthem protests, injuries, quarterback play, concussions and Roger Goodell’s lack of leadership contributed to NFL’s demise. Back at home, the Giants have been so awful that they were eliminated from making the playoffs on Sunday, and the Jets can’t be far away after a 35-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. And now the Giants decided to bench to possible, future Hall of Famer, Eli Manning for Geno Smith.

People have finally had enough. They are doing other things rather than watching the NFL on Sundays.

The ratings say it all. The NFL has not enjoyed the great ratings they are accustomed to over the years as a result of a poor product and the anthem protests. Who knew eccentric Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would be a prophet about the NFL’s popularity being in drastic decline after 10 years? He should have been ahead of his time. The NBA is more popular than the NFL.

“I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion. When pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I’m just telling you, when you got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns against you.” – Mark Cuban in 2014

It’s a great thing the NFL is getting its deserts after the league has been so arrogant for years after being teflon for the No. 1 status with sports fans. The league survived sexual assaults, domestic violence, steroid testing, concussion crisis, Spygate and Deflategate over the years.

It was Colin Kaepernick that started the domino effect of the NFL’s decline. He had the guts to kneel rather than stand for the national anthem since he wanted to take a stand on police brutality. That led NFL players to follow suit, and fans were fed up with the players disrespecting the national anthem to the point they stopped watching games. The people ,who served for the military, let their disgust known about the players kneeling during the national anthem.

The NFL can’t deny it’s an issue anymore. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admits it’s a problem. It’s hard for fans to relate to players since they think the players have it made as athletes and they shouldn’t be complaining with the money they make, and it’s hard for players to relate to fans since they don’t think fans understand the plight they have to go through in life, especially being African-American athletes.

This is not going away anytime soon. The NFL players will continue to kneel, and the league can’t possibly do anything about it. Suspending or fining them would violate their freedom of speech. The owners can’t seem to find a solution to make athletes finally stop kneeling. This is larger than life, and this is larger than football.

The fans don’t want to hear it. They watch football as a diversion to their everyday life. They want to be entertained for three hours on Sundays during the fall season, so the last thing they want to hear is athletes talking about social issues.

If isn’t the anthem protests, it’s NFL stars being hurt. Too many injuries occurred around the league this season. Julian Edelman, Odell Beckham Jr., J.J. Watt, DeShaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Richard Sherman, Eric Berry, Dalvin Cook and others to name a few are out for the year. Plus, Andrew Luck has missed the entire season after not playing in the preseason and not healing that would have helped him play this season.

Losing quality players will have an effect on the product. No one has to be Vince Lombardi to realize that.

Quarterback play is nothing to write home about. For every Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Cam Newton Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan, there is Blaine Gabbert, Brian Hoyer, Tom Savage, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Jay Cutler, Blake Bortles and Trevor Siemian that ruins the product for their awful play. In other words, great quarterbacks are few and far between.

No one can forget about concussions. Players are retiring as soon as possible. Guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Tom Brady are exceptions since they love playing the game. The younger players are going to be more cognizant about the effects concussions can have on them as they become older. It’s a conscious issue fans have to deal with, too.

Fans have to be tired of NFL commissioner Goodell’s lack of  leadership. He is not respected by the players, and some owners don’t think much of him, most notably Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is doing all he can to prevent the commissioner from getting an extension. Jones is clearly angry that Goodell suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games after allegedly being involved in a domestic violence dispute, even though he was not charged.

The NFL should be thankful for the Patriots dominance again this season, but the problem is most football fans outside of New England hate that team because they win all the time. That team does not appeal to anyone, and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are hard to root for.

The NBA has replaced the NFL as America’s No. 1 sport (not officially but it is on its way). The NBA features so many stars around the league, and the league is more fan-friendly, which the NFL can’t say anymore. Also, young viewers seem to latch on to NBA stars and their shoe lines and fashion statements. The ratings speak for itself.

The NFL can be in denial, but this is reality in 2017. The league is not getting anyone to watch after all the nonsense that has permeated the league.

Who knew Kaepernick, a QB, who took a stand (knee) mixed with league-wide horrible QB play lead to the demise of the NFL?


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