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Kaepernick-style protests grow but unlikely to affect NFL's bottom line

Assistant Professor Hannah Holmes discusses with CBC News the unlikely prospect that a growing movement of NFL players sitting down in protest during the national anthem would have a significant effect on the league's revenues.

Sep 22, 2017

Colin Kaepernick's lonely protest got some company this week. Hundreds of people demonstrated outside NFL headquarters in New York City. Other players are following suit and joining him in taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem. Even some white players are lending their support to his demonstration against racial injustice. 

And yet, with just two weeks to go before the season starts, the quarterback still doesn't have a job — and that has his supporters crying foul, accusing the NFL of blackballing him for taking a stand.

Kaepernick has been silently kneeling as a way to protest against racial injustice and police brutality. It has won him support from millions of fans. But his many critics say he's a mediocre quarterback at best, and that the protest is baggage he'd bring into a locker room and distract from a team needing focus.

Pastors call for boycott

This week, a group of pastors in Alabama decided to launch their own support of Kaepernick, organizing a boycott until he lands a spot on a team.

"We are asking everybody to spread the word, so we speak the language the NFL understands, which is money," Debleaire Snell told CBC Radio's Day 6. He's a pastor at the First Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Snell and other pastors from the state are calling on football fans to "blackout" the NFL. They say they'll refuse to watch the games, engage in fantasy football or buy any NFL-sponsored products. Snell says they'll take the time they'd normally spend watching football and spend it instead mentoring young people.

"If the ratings take a significant or even noticeable dip, I think it'll be clear that this is a matter that is resonating with a whole lot of people and it will affect their bottom line," says Snell.

But that's a big "if."

The NFL's $13B bottom line

First let's look at the NFL's bottom line. Revenues this year are projected to exceed $13 billion. Ratings dropped last year (by eight per cent) but ad revenues actually went up. All that while Kaepernick's take-a-knee protest was at its peak.

"Kaepernick's protests appear to have not hurt the league financially. However, they have hurt his prospects," says Hannah Holmes, who teaches a course called the Economics of Professional Sport at McMaster University in Hamilton.


To read the full article, go to the CBC News site.