Politics have infected the NFL to a detrimental extent ever since Colin Kaepernick started the trend of protesting by kneeling during the national anthem. After Trump issued a response to the latest protesting player, the NFL Commissioner issued a statement — a move that wasn’t well thought out.
In a statement released by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he called President Trump’s recent comments “divisive” and disrespectful. Goodell should’ve thought twice about bashing the President. The NFL is currently exempt from antitrust laws — an exemption that has been challenged numerous times in recent years — and their growing political protests could see the exemption stripped once and for all, putting an end to the monopoly that has yielded them billions of dollars annually.
The exchange between Trump and Goodell began after NBA star Stephen Curry told reporters he would refuse a visit to the White House — a tradition shared by champions of major league sports teams — due to his opposition to the Trump administration’s policies. President Trump tweeted that a White House visit should be considered an honor, and in light of Curry’s comments, his invitation was thereby withdrawn.
Goodell issued a statement criticizing Trump for the comments.
New NFL statement pic.twitter.com/XHPgVvPPfH
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) September 23, 2017
However, Goodell failed to realize that bashing the President could result in damaging consequences at the federal level.
The NFL’s anti-trust exemption allows major sports leagues to negotiate and speak on behalf of the teams in their leagues in the context of media deals. As a result, the leagues are enabled to act as a monopoly and secure lucrative broadcasting contracts that have resulted in billions of dollars every year.
The exemption, at times referred to as a “blank check,’ has been challenged by Congress several times in recent years due to numerous domestic violence crimes committed by major sports players.
In 2014, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bill to eliminate the anti-trust exemption for all major sports leagues in the US, instead requiring leagues to qualify for renewals every five years. The renewals would be determined by congressional review and consider the behavior of those within the leagues.
In 2011, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) introduced Prevent Lockout of Athletes This Year (PLAY) Act to end the 50-year anti-trust exemption for the NFL alone, following the notorious NFL lockout and a lawsuit regarding the antitrust exemption.
Another bill to end the exemption only for the NFL emerged in 2015 by Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) in response to the controversial and allegedly racist “Washington Redskins.” Holmes Norton took issue with the federal government’s nickname, Washington paired with what she considered the racist and “disparaging moniker” of Redskins. The previous year, the congresswoman also introduced a bill eliminating the tax-exempt status of the NFL.
Interestingly, the pattern of Democrats challenging the anti-trust and tax exemptions appear to have ceased with Donald Trump in the White House. Now that Colin Kaepernick has stirred anti-American protests in the NFL — a demonstration that has seeped into other sports — the Left is fully supportive of the NFL and launches attacks on anyone who speaks critically of it.
The prevalence of anti-American protests in the sports has proven to be quite costly for the NFL. Protesting the anthem has alienated the pro-American viewers, causing significant ratings declines and revenue losses. What was considered to be a temporary viewership decline last year has only worsened as the anthem protests have intensified.
Despite records in the stock market, networks that broadcast NFL games have seen their stock prices decline between 1 and 8 percent. The major networks are projected to lose $200 million in advertising revenue with the NFL due to this year’s 10 percent viewership decline.
Today, President Trump called for a boycott of NFL teams who disrespect the country. “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
With the Republican majority in Congress, the NFL could very well face legislation that finally strips them of their anti-trust exemptions. If legislation is successful, that — coupled with rapidly declining ratings and stock prices — could deal a fatal blow to the NFL and set a precedent for other sports leagues.