NFL takes a stance on kneeling. Why it matters and what does it mean


With the NFL voting unanimously on the kneeling regulations, what implications will it have on the fan experience? Further, will the production that has carried the league to what it is return to its elevated glory, or will the opening act continue to hinder it?

The NFL has a long “standing” issue on their hands. Some attribute the kneeling spectacle as the reason for TV ratings to dip. Others, have labeled it a political dilemma on an incorrect platform. I’m not here to give my two cents on what this is or the effects it may have on the game. My objective is to explain why the NFL keeps scrambling to keep the shield upright and shining.

I experienced my first NFL game 2 years ago. Being from Utah, going to a NFL game is like going on a crusade or a pilgrimage to Mecca. Logistics, cost, dedication, and sacrifices all must be made. (Yes I’m being dramatic and no I don’t mean to be sacrilegious) Before leaving, my former co-worker snickered and explained that the NFL is a production. It’s a show put on that shrouds the game and creates a Broadway performance.

The experience was terrible. Qualcomm Stadium was awe-inspiring. I had never seen a football stadium of that size and the tailgating was 4 levels above anything I had experienced. Upon entrance, I quickly realized that indeed the NFL games are nothing like what I anticipated. The pregame, half time, and time out shows were mechanical and produced. The crowd was drunk and obnoxious. The game was lifeless and a blow-out.

Granted, this is one experience as a fan being in the middle of a foreign home crowd. I’m positive that there are other NFL games that are amazing atmospheres. But make no mistake, the NFL was a high-priced Hollywood production. It had fireworks, dancers, music, and over-priced beverages. I didn’t feel like I was watching a football game, I felt like I was at a live theater/rock concert/sports bar. If you were to ask NFL execs if that is what the production is intended to be, they would nod in approval.

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Enter the kneeling situation. It’s the spotlight of the production now. The intro credits that preludes the main event and now over shadows it. The theater snobs/rockers/bar hoppers all become distracted from the production and become irritated that they are taken away from their mystical experience and shoved into an uncomfortable demonstration. This is not the production that makes money.

The TV deals aren’t going anywhere in the near future and the money will continue flowing in for months. The fear in losing TV views isn’t as dramatic as the media wants us to believe. The real fear is in the production. The traveling circus now has an opening act that turns people off to the rest. If the production starts slipping they will lose the rockers, bar hoppers, and theatrical appreciators.

The NFL won’t just lose their demographic in the ratings, they will lose them in the events. For those who may scoff at the possibility of the NFL taking a tumble, go read a history book. The MLB fell off after the Black Sox debacle. The NBA lost prevalence after the 90’s due to brand dipping. (a la Jordan and some of that decade’s star power) Point being, a sports league can and has lost considerable market share due to questions in integrity and player branding within their production and product.

Mike Freeman’s excellent article states that “everything is transactional.” You bet your boat that’s the truth and is the driving factor behind this new regulation, which, interestingly enough gives our beloved commissioner even MORE power. “The commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”

Break out the armbands and let the burlap sacks. The NFL has unlimited power to sweep a player so far under the rug that Kaepernick’s post career life will seem celestial. Why? Because the production produces transactions and those transactions stop when the opening act upsets the consumer. You all have permission to copy and paste that last sentence.

With the new season coming up and a new year ahead, the NFL will put every ounce of effort in making sure the production does not lose its marketing value. The current star power has seen its share of dip and the show carried on with the theatrical product. The first thing that they are doing is making sure the first act of their show starts off with a bang and not a knee.