(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Vice President Mike Pence objected to the disrespect that NFL players at the San Francisco 49ers-Indianapolis Colts game showed to the flag and national anthem by leaving early on Sunday. While Pence’s actions show symbolic support for the nation, they don’t monetarily penalize the NFL, which is likely the only way to get the league to change.
The corporate sponsors, who directly supported the league and players with $1.25 billion last year, have either supported their protests or remained silent. On Tuesday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who may be feeling the heat from team owners and corporate sponsors, issued a letter that said “everyone should stand for the National Anthem.”
Nike, which gives hundreds of millions of dollars to the NFL each year, supports players’ protests.
“Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society,” the company said according to CNN.
Anheuser-Busch has taken a middle-ground position.
“At Anheuser-Busch we have a long heritage of supporting the institutions and values that have made America so strong,” the company said, according to the New York Times. “That includes our armed forces and the national anthem as well as diversity, equality and freedom of speech. We proudly employ over 1,100 military veterans and we work every day to create an inclusive environment for all of our employees. Because only together can we achieve our dream of bringing people together for a better world.”
Under Armour took a similar position in a tweet.
.@UnderArmour stands for the flag and by our Athletes for free speech, expression and a unified America.
— Under Armour News (@UAnews) September 23, 2017
Most of the statements made by sponsors of the NFL support what the majority of Americans already believe: NFL players have the right to protest. These companies have not, however, made value judgements about whether their protests are in the proper time and place.
President Donald Trump tweeted about the ratings, claiming they’re due to the NFL’s disrespect.
Ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
Trump said NFL games are “boring,” but he cited Americans’ frustration with protests as the main reason for declining ratings.
A J.D. Power poll of 9,200 people found that 26 percent of respondents said they stopped watching NFL games because of the protests.
Declines in viewership could cause some sponsors, such as Anheuser-Busch, Nike, and Under Armour, to take a stronger stance against the league and players in order to draw in disenfranchised viewers.
Those who support the kneelers have called for boycotts, as well.
General Manager of the Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones said he would direct Head Coach Jason Garrett to bench players who kneeled for the anthem.
In response, ESPN pundit Jemele Hill, who called Trump a white supremacist in September, asked fans who support protesters to boycott the Cowboy’s advertisers.
This play always work. Change happens when advertisers are impacted. If you feel strongly about JJ’s statement, boycott his advertisers. https://t.co/LFXJ9YQe74
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
ESPN suspended Hill on October 9, according to The Detroit News.
It’s clear that advertisers want to remain neutral on the issue, but by doing so they have received negative attention from those who support the protests and those who do not.