The National Football League will reportedly go on an all out blitz with pressing its social justice messaging on the field in the upcoming season.
The NFL has a reported 10-year, $250 million commitment to combat systemic racism, and intends to promote social justice with on-field signage, decals on players helmets and in-stadium public service announcements.
The NBA and WNBA were front and center last season, taking the lead in the midst of social and racial unrest, protests and police killings.
The league also plans to make “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — often referred to as the Black national anthem — a prominent part of all big events, and likely highlight victims of racial injustice with a “Say Their Stories” project.
In 2020, the NFL suffered its first regular-season TV audience downturn in three years amid the COVID-19 pandemic — which is surprising considering no fans were allowed in the stadiums.
On one hand, social justice messaging played a major role in the loss of viewership, with many fans upset about players using their platform to fight for change.
At the same time, there was a contingent of Black fans who stopped tuning in as a protest against the League’s owners blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, who did nothing more than use his platform to bring light to systemic racism, social injustice and police violence against people of color.
It’s ironic that the NFL chooses to do this now.
This push comes as other leagues dial back, including the NBA which removed most of the social justice signs and messages that were prevalent on courts and player jerseys last season.
In an effort to show solidarity with its Black players (League is over 70% African-American), the league is planning a bigger social injustice initiative than last season in terms of spending, commitment and resources.
Beginning August 5 during the league’s pre-season, NFL end zones will feature messages such as “End Racism” and “Inspire Change.”
That brings us to the five-year anniversary of Colin Kaepernick (August 14) protesting the national anthem during a preseason game. Since then the NFL has see-sawed in it’s support of protesting players — as former President Donald Trump called for teams to fire protesting players in 2017.
When Colin Kaepernick first took his knee, shortly after Mario Woods was shot 20 times by police, his uncompromising ethics led to him being blackballed by NFL owners but iconized by the masses and on the right side of history.
He let the world know that social justice was bigger than sports and the money that it generates for owners and players.
Now the NFL wants to go all out with the very thing Kaepernick was doing. The very thing they crucified him for.
Actually now is the moment for Roger Goodell to step to a microphone and offer a full and complete apology to Mr. Kaepernick. To announce his commitment to supporting Mr. Kaepernick ‘s charities. And to signing Mr. Kaepernick to an NFL team. https://t.co/2RdyQ2B3VA
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) May 30, 2020
Kaepernick was ten toes down, and he probably was the only one for a while. Eventually, the Black bodies piled up and so did the frustration.
During the height of player protests during the 2016-17 seasons, the league’s once impregnable TV audiences plummeted 8% and 10% respectively.
In typical good ole boy fashion in the United States of America, once the protests receded, of course viewership bounced back to the tune of 5% each during the 2018-19 seasons.
But they once again plummeted some 8% to 15.1 million viewers in 2020 as the league embraced social justice messaging on helmets, warm-up gear, fields and stadiums across the league following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police.
For a league not accustomed to losing viewership or fan interaction, this has to be a tough pill to swallow and now they’re taking a course of action in an attempt to fix those issues. We will see where this goes.