Pay no attention to the numbers following the minus signs chronicling the NFL's "honey, I shrunk the television rating" phenomenon that was the first week of the league's 2020 season. Thursday night football crashed on take-off, and the league's crown jewel, Monday Night Football, also cratered. Blinded by the blight, USA Today lefty Nancy Armour is singing the praises of the NFL and its total capitulation to social justice wokeness.
Last week's NFL season opener drew its smallest television audience in 10 years, and the viewership dropped 16.1 percent compared to last year's first game. For the Steelers-Giants game on ESPN Monday, viewership was down 21% and the Titans-Broncos Monday game drew -38 percent for a parallel game from 2019. Sunday Night Football? Down 15 percent. For Sunday games as a whole, the needle pointed down 3 percent from last year. Selling out to the Marxist Black Lives Matter is poison for professional sports, as the NBA discovered, too.
All's not lost, though, so cheer up! Because, in Armour's world, it's all about how you define pain. Her tactic is to deflect, deny, distract from the public's thumbs-down on the NFL. Her "truth" is that all's well in the new and improved social justice NFL, so let's save ourselves the headaches over all the nonsense being bandied about:
"The NFL is not dying. Throngs of fans are not turning off their televisions – or phones or tablets or however else they’re watching – in disgust over the player protests for racial justice. Sponsors are not rethinking their association with the league for fear of consumer backlash.
"The NFL is, and will continue to be, the ratings and revenue juggernaut it has been for the past 30 years."
Yeah, right, this is literally the NFL's finest hour, its golden era. Armour offers nine arguments in support of her undue optimism.
- The America-is-souring-on-the-NFL narrative started four years ago when Colin Kaepernick started his protests against police brutality. It was co-opted by President Donald Trump, who used the protests that ensued to stir up the Republican base for the 2016 election.
- Despite the ratings disaster, the five most-watched shows last week were all NFL games. This doesn't say much for television's offerings as a whole.
- Tom Brady's debut with Tampa Bay got great viewership. Hurray for one game!
- Despite a pandemic, the NFL signed four new sponsors this year and has "an abundance of marketing riches."
- The sales of NFL merchandise are up 35 percent over last year. So people are wearing the shirts, but not watching the games.
- To further her argument, Armour cites a time in the 1970s when the NBA Finals were being shown on tape delay by CBS, but all the NFL broadcasts were in real time. Ancient history.
- Here's a biggie: Armour says 56 percent of Americans polled now support anthem kneeling.
- Likewise, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery "have forced the country to acknowledge systemic racism in a way it hasn’t since the civil rights movement," Armour wrote. "Unlike four years ago, when irate fans accused the NFL of 'changing,' there’s a recognition now that it’s the country that is different, and the protests, demonstrations and calls to action by players, coaches and even the league are a reflection of that."
- Also inflating Armour's view of the NFL's so-called current prosperity is President Trump's recognition that "his favorite dog whistle has lost its potency, with his tweet on Monday about Week 1 protests barely even registering on the usual Rage-o-Meter."
"So, no, not dying. Not failing. Not anywhere close to becoming irrelevant," Armour says of the Teflon NFL. It's also the same league she's been condemning for the last four years when it wasn't yet woke and it was "blackballing" Kaepernick.
There you have it. The significant loss of viewers last week was just the tip of the iceberg visible above the surface. Below water everything's cool with the NFL, Marxism, Black Lives Matter protests and a little football mixed in with a lot of social justice activism.