Why people aren't watching NFL games: Capitalism

NFL fans are turning off their TV's and not buying tickets.
Why? Because football players dared to take a knee during the national anthem.

A Rasmussen Reports national survey of 1,000 adults in 2016 found that most viewers were declining to watch football games because of player protests over racial issues.
It found that nearly one-third (32 percent) of adults said they are less likely to watch an NFL game because of the growing number of Black Lives Matter protests by players on the field, against 13 percent who said they are more likely to watch a game because of the protests.
Many of the viewers who opted to stop watching NFL games are black, according to the survey.

[sound of wheels screeching]
Blacks are upset that blacks are protesting the treatment of blacks?
That makes no sense, and when something doesn't make sense I look for other explanations.
There is no doubt that attendance and viewership is way down.

So what other reasons could explain this huge drop?
Well, there was a big change in the NFL before the start of last season that hardly gets talked about - two of the teams, the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers, abandoned their fans and moved to L.A.
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Let's look at how this went over with the fans, starting with the Rams.

ast Sunday the viewership level was higher in St. Louis than LA, according to Nielsen — which tabulates ratings. It says that 7.8 percent of homes with a TV in the Los Angeles market tuned in to see the Rams beat the Cardinals. The figure in St. Louis was 10.9.
The Gateway City had a better rating than LA for a Rams game for the second year in a row.
...This is another astounding development in the TV ratings business, especially considering St. Louis was categorized by Rams ownership of lacking support for the team.

That's an embarrassing development for the Rams, but for the Chargers the results have been so catastrophic that it defies any one measurement.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch acquired the ratings in Los Angeles for the two teams and found that the Chargers averaged a 6.0 rating in their first season playing in Carson, while the Rams averaged 8.0 in their second year at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
What makes those numbers stand out is that — combined — they are lower than the 14.2 rating the Chargers got for their telecasts in 2017 in San Diego — the city they spurned.
As the Union-Tribune reported this week, the Chargers’ five-year average from 2012-16 was 26.7, including 24.4 in 2016 when many angry fans already had begun to tune them out. Dating back to 1999, the Chargers’ lowest season average in San Diego was 17.9 for their 1-15 season in 2000. That was the only time in that span where the average was below 20.
As the Post-Dispatch pointed out, the ratings could be historically low for teams in their home markets. From 2011-14, the lowest rating for any team was a 9.9 in 2012 for the Oakland Raiders.

Put another way, viewership of Chargers games in San Diego dropped 40% after they told their fans that they don't matter, and yet that viewership in San Diego was still more than twice as high than L.A. viewership.
Attendance was equally dismal. The Chargers had trouble selling out the team’s temporary home, a Major League Soccer venue, the StubHub Center, with a capacity of just 27,167, after usually selling out their 71,000 seat former home in San Diego.
The attendance problems are so bad that they require first-person testimony.

Their games feel less like a sporting event and more like a meetup of all the people who knew the Chargers had moved to Los Angeles. Few things seem impermanent as they happen, but the Chargers playing three seasons in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium is destined for a “Today I Learned” thread on Reddit two decades from now.
..This is more of a misadventure, an earnest idea quickly gone south. Norman Mailer described Los Angeles as a “constellation of plastic”—meaning, everything is manufactured. That gets less true as the city as a whole grows, but in this very specific case of a football team, there’s not much of an argument.

So at this point, why aren't the Chargers ownership begging forgiveness to San Diego fans and moving back just as fast as they can?
For a simple reason: the move made the Chargers owners very rich.

Dr. Jim Lackritz, the head of the Sports Business Department at San Diego State University, told FOX 5 that the value of the San Diego Chargers was about $1.5 billion. By moving north, the team became worth about $3 billion. Taking into account the costs of the move, Spanos still will make a $1 billion profit from the move, Lackritz said.

A billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at, but it begs the question of how capitalism values these franchises.
How is it possible for the value of a team to double while it loses most of its fans?
That seems counter-intuitive.

By swapping human fans in San Diego for profitable empty seats in Los Angeles, the Chargers have become a case study in whether a professional sports team can survive without fans.
Beyond that, the fans who have shown up to these games have done so largely to support the teams that the Chargers are playing.
...This is the Chargers’ new reality: road games in front of hostile crowds, and home games in front of smaller hostile crowds.
It’s not just that nobody is going to Chargers games. Nobody cares at all.

And that turns the economics of professional sports on its head.
The fans don't matter at all.
It's not just a case of building up a new fan base after disrespecting the last fan base.

It's not caring if anyone shows up for the games because capitalism is rewarding the owners for making disastrous decisions, and putting out a bad product that people don't want.
How's that for the "market's invisible hand"?

The NFL has developed a world in which the presence of fans at a game is only loosely linked to profit.
...We’ve long presumed that fans are the lifeblood of a team. But fans can be pesky, yelling, booing, and calling into radio shows to demand changes that team owners don’t want to make. If a franchise proves profitable without having a sizable fan base, it’d represent a way for owners to cash in without dealing with the endearingly human problems that fans frequently cause.

And so the Chargers are the NFL’s post-fan experiment.

The Chargers are only the first post-fan team.
The Raiders will be the second.

Which brings us to the NFL's 9% drop in viewership.
We could attribute that to the ownership of two teams making catastrophic decisions to alienate their fan bases so that they could make a quick buck, thus exposing the flaws in our capitalist model.
Or we could blame the players for their silent, dignifies protest.

Which do you think the news media latched onto?

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Comments

Wink's picture

(as to distinguish from the NY baseball Giants, who moved to San Fran in the '50s) are sold out for the next 20 years, at least. No matter, the stadium is rarely packed.
The big difference I see in the current game is advertising. Hell, teams can barely get a play off before networks have to break for a tv commercial. What a short time ago took two hours and 45 mins. to finish a game now takes nearly three and a half hours. Those extry 35, 40 minutes mostly ads. Subsequently the games have become b-o-r-i-n-g, suffering thru tv ads just to watch a sequence of plays. It just ain't the same game anymore.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

@Wink
Last year I stopped being a football fan for the first time in 37 years.

I happen to live around Oakland Raider fans. I have no problem telling them that they are being played for chumps.

As for empty, "sold-out" stadiums, look no further than the 49ers.

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@gjohnsit
When the Raiders, the team I grew up with, moved to LA in the 80s. Then they came back, ripped off the city of Oakland for hundreds of millions of dollars to add more seats to the Oakland Colosseum and ruin what was a nice baseball stadium. Now they're moving to a new 2 billion dollar stadium in Las Vegas, paid in large part by Nevada tax payers and I'm done with them. I might watch a little bit of the publicly owned Packers next season.

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14 users have voted.

Beware the bullshit factories.

@Timmethy2.0
Football team owners can get rich by getting rid of their fans.

Just like these internet start-up companies that are worth billions of dollars while never having earned a single dollar in profits.

Huh?
This stuff defies Econ 101 that gets taught in school. Or even logic.

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Meteor Man's picture

NFL Owners have demonstrated zero loyalty to fans by demanding massive tax concessions, new stadiums and jumping anywhere they get a better offer.

Fans are finally fed up and rightfully so. Here's hoping traditional Democratic voters react with as much contempt for precisely the same reasons.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

Wink's picture

@Meteor Man

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

Pricknick's picture

The majority of people who live near the sports venues can't afford to go.
The romans knew how to fill the arenas. Everyone could afford to attend as it was free to most.
No sympathy for modern day gladiator games.

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Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

@Pricknick I don't follow the sport any longer, but when I was growing up, my family had seasons Colts tickets for the first 10 years after they moved to Indy. It wasn't financial reasons that caused them to give the tickets up. They just got tired of the team's poor performance during those years. I don't see anyway a family like ours (both my parents were public school teachers and I have one sister) could afford a pair of season tickets to any NFL team anymore. That was about 15 years ago. Even going to a single game seems like it would be a large outlay these days.

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snoopydawg's picture

@Dr. John Carpenter

But if you want to eat or drink something it costs much moola for just one person. Add in the family and it's just to unaffordable for people who are working minimum wage jobs.

I used to be able to take BART to the Oakland coliseum for $5 and buy a $5 ticket and sit right behind right field. This was the year that the A's won the series.

I grew up watching baseball with my grandpa who took me to the Ogden A's when I was 4. I stopped watching it for a good reason, I just can't remember what it was. I stopped watching football because when one is losing by 35 points, players would sack the QB and then celebrate their play. Too much celebrating any more. This is not how the game is played in my book.

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To really control a country, you must first control its courts. Then whatever you do is legal and anything the opposition does is illegal

Wink's picture

kids are looking at a week's paycheck to go to a game. Parking is the price of a ticket 20 years ago.
@snoopydawg
The NFL is slitting its own throat. Damn few give a damn that Kapernick took a knee or not. They're in the arena to watch modern day gladiators go at it, may the home team win! Fans also sick'n'tired of subsidizing Billionaire team owners by shelling out their tax dollars to build them a multi-million dollar stadium. Socialism only works for the uber rich. The rest of us must perform in the marketplace called Capitalism or die in the street trying.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

@snoopydawg parking at a Colts game could easily run as much as our tickets used to be. And public transportation here has always been a mixed bag.

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For their rude and insulting conduct. The National anthem and the Flag have nothing to do with police racism. The proper way to protest that is with marches, signs, TV ads, print appeals, hashtags and the like.
Spitting on the symbols of America is spitting on everyone in America. Those millionaire players should be fired. Why don't they donate half their lavish salaries to a legal fund that sues those police officers and departments? Because it's so chic to just put the money in their pockets and say "Fuck You America".

The same with those racists that wouldn't let Bernie Sanders talk about Social Security.

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@The Voice In the Wilderness

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Sigh

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@gjohnsit
Unless it's an extended project in some sort of very arch irony, VitW's comment history suggests a rather conventional and conservative understanding of patriotism, and of politics and society in general.

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Sigh

snoopydawg's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

The proper way to protest that is with marches

There is no law that says that people have to stand for the anthem.

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12 users have voted.

To really control a country, you must first control its courts. Then whatever you do is legal and anything the opposition does is illegal

watching the Lions for 50 years, and I have yet to go see to a game.

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snoopydawg's picture

Capitalism, what's not to love?

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10 users have voted.

To really control a country, you must first control its courts. Then whatever you do is legal and anything the opposition does is illegal

@snoopydawg Last I heard, the largest non-profit in the US was the PGA.

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Wink's picture

get to dip their beaks in the Socialism pond. TheRestofUs must battle the high seas of Capitalism.
@snoopydawg
Or drown trying.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

of something i occasionally rant about -- the habit people have of transforming a statistical tendency observed in a social science experiment in to some sort of weird binary absolute.

thus, "less likely to watch an NFL game because of the growing number of Black Lives Matter protests by players on the field" gets translated into, "declining to watch football games because of player protests over racial issues".

well, one would need to dig a whole lot deeper into the survey questions and responses to justify making the leap from A to B.

specifically, the disingenuous article asserts:

A Rasmussen Reports national survey of 1,000 adults in 2016 found that most viewers were declining to watch football games because of player protests over racial issues.

when in fact, the Rasmussen report only gives self-reported "less likely" numbers -- it doesn't report at all on whether the particular subjects actually were former watchers who were now declining to watch. moreover, the Rasmussen report was written midway through the 2016 season, so what the Eff does it have to do with lowered attendance/viewership in 2017? talk about extrapolating from the data.

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Sigh

Big Al's picture

@UntimelyRippd their ideology.

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@Pricknick

And put some hungry lions on the field on monday night games.

The romans knew how to fill the arenas. Everyone could afford to attend as it was free to most.
No sympathy for modern day gladiator games.

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9 users have voted.

Beware the bullshit factories.

Professional sports are a subsidary of various industries that rely on the teams to sell the products of those industries. It is not about excellence in competition and sportsmanship. Many examples of this. I have read where Texas A&M sold $52 million worth of Johnny Manzeil jerseys. The NBA seems to be a subsdiary of sport merchandising companies.

Every watch modern day horse racing? The stands for many races are empty except for the most famous tracks such as Del Mar and Saratoga--and they have short seasons. Yet they survive because they survive because of online betting.

It seems professional sports is heading that way. Fantasy football seems to have more people playing it than fans watching games at stadiums. Don't need fans in stadiums to watch the game to get stats needed by the players.

Was watching a segment of Colin Cowherd, who sometimes lets loose some things about sports. He said that the Lakers were getting exactly what they expected from Lanzo Ball even though he is under performing as a rookie with a huge contract: increased ticket sales, ads, jersey salese, etc.

Also there is the argument about losers and winners affecting fan turn out. True to a certain extent, but there have been teams like the Chicago Cubs and Portland Balzers who even in losing seasons nearly sold out every game.

Sorta funny only in a black ironic way. But a sports writer noted that the owner of the New Orlean Saints wanted to move the team but then under Brees and company they became winners, and the move of the team has stopped. And the owner gets the image of some "New Orleans cultural icon" when he was ready to move out of the city.

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@MrWebster

It is not about excellence in competition and sportsmanship. Many examples of this

The best athletes want the most money. I think one good thing I have to admit about the NFL is that it is probably the most competitive sports league. I think that has a lot to do with the salary cap structure. In baseball, the Yankees, the richest team, gets the best players. Same situation with European soccer. The whole moneyball thing though has made baseball competitive despite the inequality between teams.

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Beware the bullshit factories.

Daenerys's picture

The protests aren't one of them.

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This shit is bananas.

Mark from Queens's picture

and will continue to #BoycottTheNFL

Was a Jets season ticket holder for about 20 years. For me it was a gradual slide through the 90's until it became an avalanche this decade. Stopped going to the games completely about 8-9 years ago. Didn't watch a game at all last year, and had been watching less and less and less each previous year.

First noticed becoming uneasy at the incessant pharma ads that were literally rolled out like carpet onto the field during halftime while whatever harmless entertainment they had.

It has to be said also: during it all there was always a frothing RW militaristic energy in the stadium, which is dark and troubling. Almost all men in their 20's to 60's, all revved up on beer since the morning, and seemingly capable of the most mindless violence at the drop of a hat.

The obligatory, cheesy military flyovers really did for me. Wasn't long into the 2000's, that before and during every game there was a constant trotting out of some or other military bullshit commemorating our "heroes."

I'll never forget the feeling throughout the stadium, in the parking lot and in the stands, when I went to the Monday Night Football game vs. the detested rival Miami Dolphins on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, naively (as the good Democrat) carrying an American flag on which I spraypainted "Give Me Kerry, or Give Me Death," such was my pronounced and profound hatred of Bush Co. Good thing a pretty big friend who boxes vowed to stand by my side as a sort of protector, as there were many moments in which I felt I might be viciously attacked. Man, to know what that feels like to be the target all of this subtext of aggression was something I'll never forget - and made me view my countrymen differently. These same schmucks, four years later when I'd arrive on my motorcycle with Obama campaign, "Impeach Bush" and "Worst President Ever" stickers on my helmet, were all nods and pleasantries.

The Jets, like the Chargers, Rams and Raiders you cited, have also been hemorrhaging fans for years. The final nail for many of us was when, during or just after the Great Heist/Financial Crash of 2008, they decided to hammer their bread and better fans of the working class, by instituting new policy in which one had to pay one-time pretty exorbitant fee for the license to one's seat in order to remain a seasons ticket holder - and raised ticket prices also. Lots of guys decided to pack it in. Stadium attendance has never been the same. They even rolled out this little ploy a couple of months ago, "Jets drop season-ticket prices by average of 11 percent." Too little to late.

But the owners don't give a shit (like in baseball) that their seat costs are prohibitive for the average guy who used to not think about it, but now has to worry about, his salary reduction, working more hours for less, insurance premiums and deductibles. Add in parking fees and increasing concession prices and people just stay home, and gradually lose interest. Meanwhile the owners cater to the Let-Them-Eat-Cake, sky box, hedge fund banker criminal douchebags, who are fair weather fans at best. The whole thing deserves its fate. They're done.

The Kap thing really drew into sharp relief the other aspect I'd suspected back then and been keenly aware of later: that most professional sports owners, not just the NFL but there prominently, were racist and bigoted oligarchs who viewed their franchises as toys at best, plantations at worst. Did Uncle Tom OJ Simpson really come out and take a shot at Kap/is anyone surprised? I met a woman on tour once who dated Tony Gonzalez while in college together. She said he was an open-minded, pot-smoking, reggae-listening cool guy. A few years into the NFL became your standard RW conservative more concerned about his stock portfolio than the community from which he came. That is why I revere Kap more and more. He took a massive hit, and still gives enormous generous amounts of his money and time to causes for the underprivileged and maligned. Dave Chappelle said this on his latest Netflix special (highly recommended) about him:

That’s why I wanna start a GoFundMe for Colin Kaepernick. I do, man.

I’m fascinated with him. I want to make sure he never has to play football again.

He can if he wants to. I just don’t want him to have to. Because why the fuck not.

I know people are gonna be like, 'I’m not giving any money to GoFundMe for a rich dude.' But you should.
You should.

Because that motherfucker’s life was going great. He was so light-skinned, he didn’t even have to say he’s black. And yet, he took a knee during that anthem for us.

Thought about us when things were going good, when his belly was full. Didn’t think about his livelihood or any of that.

And they took his livelihood away from him. And I’m like, 'Man, that shouldn’t be the way it is.'

Every fucking person who takes a stand for somebody else always gets beat down.

And we watch.

Over and over and over again, we watch.

But we should pay those motherfuckers for blowing the whistle.
Because they make our lives better.

And we could change the narrative.

If we could make one motherfucker have a good outcome for doing the right thing, it would make another motherfucker be brave enough to do the right thing. And if you did that the niggers like Harvey Weinstein wouldn’t rape for 40 years ‘cause a bitch want a stupid ass part. We go to take care of each other.”

Have to admit I'm elated at what I'm seeing about the crash and fall of the NFL. The Frontline special about the brain injury coverups also helped throw dirt on the coffin of this dying institution.

I'm seriously over it.

Their days really could be numbered.

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(thirty three and a third at TOP)

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

Wink's picture

@Mark from Queens

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

longtalldrink's picture

[sound of wheels screeching]
Blacks are upset that blacks are protesting the treatment of blacks?
You bring up very good data regarding owners moving teams etc. But really, hard core fans will follow their team everywhere, especially on TV. Black viewership is down out of SOLIDARITY with the players.

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Well done is better than well said-Ben Franklin

@longtalldrink

Black viewership is down out of SOLIDARITY with the players.

How is boycotting the players showing solidarity with the players?

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Lookout's picture

...can't come soon enough for me. I wish they removed football from high schools and colleges too. It always pissed me off how much money, work, and emphasis went into running up and down an artificial pasture at the expense of promoting education.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The value of a team is based on its revenue stream potential, not fan loyalty. You can piss off the local fans any time you want. After all, ticket sales are a tiny portion of revenue. You still make money and you'll pack the stadium if/when you start winning.

I work in the solar industry. In 10 short years the industry went from a brand quality and value marketplace, to the lowest price per installed watt. What matters is the equipment a business buys is cheap, even though it produces less power in the long run and may even need replacing during the life of the system. Business leverages the perceived production and sells it off at a discounted rate that is still profitable. Now solar power is like flipping a house....pump and dump.

Capitalism is a sickness.

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@Blueslide

The value of a team is based on its revenue stream potential, not fan loyalty.

until recently the two were inseparable.
A team needed asses in the seats, and fans to buy jerseys.
Not anymore.

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@Blueslide
That's why they introduced solar equipment tariffs a month or 2 ago. On the other hand, maybe it can help the us solar equipment industry, which China now dominates. Germany and other EU countries have been slipping after a strong start. I think Germany stupidly ended some policies that put Germany at the forefront 5 or 10 years ago. Now China is the dominant manufacturer. Of course, the US could have some smart policies that encourage solar equipment manufacturing, but that would hurt oil profits.

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Beware the bullshit factories.

as I write this comment there are 30 comments in this diary, with all kinds of great anecdotes / observations.

When I was 7 in 1967 in my hometown of Holyoke MA., EVERYONE had the Red Sox World Series on their rabbit ear black and white idiot boxes ...

And then, in 2000? or so, the cheapest rip-off cable package in Seattle no longer had the Mariners - you have to pay extra. Just like the NFL - you gotta get ripped off by the cable companies.

Never mind going to the stadium for 2 people, and the rafter seat, and a couple of dogs & brews, is a quick $200 out the window. [you REALLY want 1 of the $150 jerseys!? ]
Compare and Contrast to the 80's, when I was lowly cook in Boston, and could catch a couple of sox games a year for the price of a fun night on town.

The NFL, MLB ... are killing their futures cuz, what little kids are watching these games with their families a couple of times a month?

And, Oh, By The Way - Fuck the NFL & MLB & ... for maximizing today's revenue & killing their own futures. YAWN. In 20 & 30 years they'll have the apathy & lack of revenue they've earned, and, fuck 'em.

Oops! I am redundant!

rmm.

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But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villany
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

As a member of a family that used to watch the NFL religiously (we had Sunday ticket), and now watches it not at all, I can assure you it has nothing to do with players taking a knee, nor with the specific decisions to move those teams to LA.

For us, it had to do with a pattern of increasingly suspect officiating and outright rule-breaking, along with football decisions on the field clearly designed to create a premeditated outcome. In other words, the NFL started looking like the World Wrestling Federation with less exposed skin and more polite commentary.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt-out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

Daenerys's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal the Vikings were my team. Never been to the Super Bowl. When a team gets to the last playoff game only to lose it in the end every time as many times as they have you start to wonder. (Sound familiar? Kind of like the Dems' behavior!) And they finally got their shiny new stadium they were begging for for how many years, paid for by taxpayer monies, natch. GRRRRR.

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This shit is bananas.