As NFL ratings plunge, the press has adamantly avoided placing any blame on player national anthem protests. However, on Bill Simmons’ show Any Given Wednesday, “the Kaepernick thing” was finally mentioned…and quickly shut down.
On October 19, host Simmons had on sportscasters Al Michaels and Bob Costas to discuss the fate of the NFL. He began the discussion by citing the recent NFL ratings drop, asking, “Do you remember the ‘what’s wrong with football, is it gonna fall apart, is this it’?”
Simmons and Michaels explained away the problem claiming that “This happens all the time.” Michaels cited a Sports Illustrated headline 20 years ago forecasting the end of the NFL before stating, “Everybody is making a big deal out of the fact the ratings are down.” But he added, “What goes up must come down…It’s like a stock…the stock can go flying… you need a little plateau or a little down spurt here.” He concluded the problem is “a temporary thing” before admitting, “But I do think there are some issues”
Costas offered a typical liberal talking-point: “The fundamental issue is just the very nature of the game. They can make it safer, but they can’t make it safe…You cannot play football without head trauma, you can’t.” In light of recent NFL rules attempting to make the game safer, Simmons asked, “Do you think that fans maybe possibly like the violence and now that it’s gotten softer that it’s kind of lessened the appeal a little bit for some people?” Costas responded, “For some people, yeah.”
Finally, Michaels showed a bit of common sense, asserting, “It’s a combination of a lot of things right now…The Kaepernick thing, and the ancillary stuff off the Kaepernick – I don’t know…How big is it? I don’t know, I can’t measure it.” That was the last time that idea was brought up as Simmons cast it aside: “It might be a small thing, then the election is part of it.”
The three went on to have a lengthy conversation about how the presidential debates, suspension controversies, concussions and social media have played a large part in ratings drops.
Ignoring that American adults disapprove of the athlete protests 54-38, and without a single mention of the national anthem protests or a longer conversation about “the Kaepernick thing,” they also delved into extensive conversations about the “celebration crackdowns” and the possible “oversaturation” of football.
A momentary scuffle ensued later in the show when Costas teased Michaels for ranting and Michaels brought up Costas’ half-time lecture on his opposition to the Redskins team name. Michaels retorted, “Wait until we do a Redskins game.” Costas replied, “You mean the Washington football team?” to which Michaels shot back, “No, no, the Redskins game.” Costas added, “I’m buying Al a dictionary after this,” alluding to his half-time statement that “Every dictionary defines Redskins as an insult, a slur, a derogatory or pejorative term.”
Lucky for fans, it looks like politics will continue to permeate all aspects of sports, whether it be game-time national anthem protests, half-time lectures, or sports talk-shows.