It has been an eventful few years for the National Football League (NFL). With national anthem protests, complaints by President Donald Trump, and owners naming players as “inmates,” there has been an abundance of strange occurrences that have little to do with the game itself. It’s also been a long faceoff between two sides with set positions: some players who believe in the rights of minorities in America, and some owners convinced that the protests are killing their business. Following concerns from Papa John’s pizza that the NFL protests were hurting sales, founder John Schnatter said sales are down due to “negative consumer sentiment” regarding the company’s relationship with the NFL.
Schnatter also called the NFL “an example of poor leadership.” A topic of discussion during the 2017 NFL season was players’ decision to protest during the national anthem. While the trend was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season, it has continued in 2017, especially since critical comments were made by President Donald Trump. The NFL was blamed for their fall in chicken wing sales by their company executive. Joe F. Sanderson Jr, the CEO of Sanderson Farms, said after an earnings call with news source Deadline, that his vendors think chicken wings consumption is down because of the NFL anthem protests. Their shares fell 13%.
Given Sanderson’s comments, this year’s Super Bowl week, typically the highest period for wings consumed, may not be the “Super Bowl” for the poultry business, a concerning situation as far as their yearly sales go. The continued upset of advertisers and sponsors does not bode well for a league that is fueled by television. Franklin’s own men’s basketball coach, Scott Aker, has a few comments to make. “If you don’t have freedom of speech, a whole bunch of other things go away too. Now, if that is the right place to express your opinion or not is really up to the individual.” Aker continues to say, “We [the men’s basketball team] haven’t had any issues one way or the other. We haven’t had anybody express the desire to do that [kneel at the anthem].” The Post was unable to confirm this with athletes. Falling TV ratings are just one proof of a loss of interest. Add in the lack of interest between millennials in three-hour football games, and youth leagues disappearing because of injury concerns, and things begin to look little a low. “That’s the beauty of our country, you can say what you want to say,” says Aker. According to Deadline, these protests will continue through this year’s super bowl. Current and past protests are as follows. In New Orleans, the Saints’ season-long practice of kneeling together before the national anthem, then rising during the song, continues. Miami Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills and tight end Julius Thomas have continued their season-long protest. The Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Russell Okung stood with his right fist raised during the national anthem. The Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters remained in the tunnel for the national anthem, which he has done for a large part of the season. The Seattle Seahawks led the league in national anthem protesters. Before their game against the Los Angeles Rams, the Seahawks crowded the bench during the song. They included Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Nazair Jones, Dion Jordan, Sheldon Richardson, Marcus Smith III, Quinton Jefferson, Jarran Reed, Frank Clark, Branden Jackson, and Paul Dawson. Left tackle Duane Brown took a knee next to the sitters, while center Justin Britt stood next to Brown, placing a hand on his shoulder in support. New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon, who was fined over $18,000 for a late hit on Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, continued his season-long anthem protest. Vernon has stated he will not end his protest until the public understands the real message behind his actions. Through the last two years, bringing awareness to a need for racial equality, continues to be the motivation behind these protests. They continue to happen throughout the country, and will likely continue until there is change.