The torch of America's favorite pastime has been passed from sport to sport over the past centuries. The NFL currently holds that honor, but according to a Gallup poll, the NBA is in a close second. While there will always be a time and a place for a Super Bowl cookout, market trends are pointing towards a new crown of primetime sports, the NBA.
The majority of the NFL's audience sit down to watch football as a form of entertainment escapism; work, family, and other daily stressors can often take their toll on one's mental health, so we use entertainment outlets to temporarily forget these realities. NFL viewer uproar has occurred in recent years because football players have begun to use their positions as platforms to discuss honest social justice issues, and in turn, reeling audience members back into the reality they were trying to escape. This, in turn, has led to a decrease in viewership, with ratings dropping almost ten percent in only one year. Compare the NFL's woes to the NBA, which inversely saw their 2017-2018 regular season ratings hit a 4-year high.
This raises a simple question: If presumably similar social justice sentiments are shared between both basketball and football athletes, why don't NBA players protest?
The short answer is that the NBA's leadership works to cultivate athlete partnerships in order to create alternative forms of outside protests, rather than the NFL's viral reactionary policies which were not even consulted by the player's union. On the other hand, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been proactively working with athletes, coaches, and the National Basketball Players Association to collaborate and spearhead a plethora of social justice events. This creates a mutually trusting environment because athletes know they will have a platform and proper funding to shed light on social activism issues and executives know they won't drop sponsorships or ratings. This progressive leadership style is light-years ahead of the NFL and has proven to create financial buoyancy for the NBA during these politically turbulent times.
To put it simply, football is a sport that has an aging target audience. As Millennials we want to consume our content in the most entertaining and efficient way possible. To find a disconnect between the NFL and the Millennial generation look no further than the popularity of Vine, House of Highlights, and ESPN Top 10, then juxtapose it with the fact that football is a three-hour game with less than 4 minutes of action. Modern American's attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish, a fact that is good news for fast-paced games like basketball, but detrimental news to drawn-out sports such as baseball and football. The game has adapted into more dopamine-releasing forms such as Arena Football and the re-developed XFL; however, these games will only continue to peck away at the NFL's diminishing sports market share.
Both the NBA and the NFL are both multi-billion dollar corporations which have seen unprecedented success. It will be interesting to see in the near future if the NFL is able to evolve and shed its latest reputation, or if the NBA will be able to dethrone this great American sport.