Last fall, it was impossible to go on Twitter and not see these hashtags littering your feed. Eventually, football season ended and the debate quieted. Months later, these hashtags are starting to resurface. Following the National Football League’s decision to impose fines against teams whose players do not stand for the National Anthem, the long-standing debate of personal freedoms returns to the spotlight.
The NFL is going to receive serious backlash from this resolution, but the ultimate question for the NFL is will the backlash from this outweigh the backlash from not doing anything about the kneeling before. The NFL’s corporate stance in the statement went highly understated in the previous season. They weren’t trying to shut the protests down, but they were certainly not encouraging them. Trying to save the league, the NFL is finally taking a position.
It is imperative to keep in mind that the NFL is more than a sports league. It is a trade association trying to pay salaries and turn a profit. This decision had nothing to do with moral and everything to do with business. The NFL, like any other business, is merely trying to stay afloat.
Once players started kneeling, a lot of people stopped watching. According to a study found on Statista, 103,400,000 people watched to Super Bowl this year. While that still seems like an outrageously high number for a sporting event, it was 7.9 million people fewer than the year before.
Since this could be attributed to both sides of the protest (people not watching as a gesture of solidarity with those kneeling and people not watching in protest of those kneeling), the NFL is taking time to experiment with which side is dragging away more viewers.
With this new policy, the NFL hopes to bring back viewers, not shut down opinions. The success of the #Ikneel movement is vividly apparent. The amount of conversations and sub-movements it has started shows its success so far.
The fact that the NFL had to counteract it just to uphold a revenue shows the attention it has attracted. Whether or not this policy brings back viewers will have to wait to be determined, but regardless, the #Ikneel movement will undoubtedly implement change in the future.