In the wake of a tumultuous week that saw national anthem protests escalate after President Donald Trump’s condemnation of the anti-American demonstrations on the gridiron from coast to coast, the National Football League received a loud and clear massage from fed-up fans, as ticket sales substantially plummeted by nearly 20 percent last week.
Many Americans apparently agree with the president, who told the NFL that it “must respect” the national anthem, as the online ticket reseller TickPick announced that ticket sales plummeted by nearly one-fifth last weekend.
“[There was a] 17.9 percent decrease in NFL orders this week compared to the previous week,” TickPick divulged. “Last year the drop was 10.8 percent in orders on Monday & Tuesday following Week Three games.”
The ‘Trump Effect’
Many believe that the timing of the extreme drop in sales is more than a consequence – after some 200 NFL players would not honor the flag at stadiums across the country last weekend during the national anthem.
“The National Football League is feeling the impact of the ‘Trump Effect,’" the Washington Examiner reported.
Trump made his frustration known with NFL team owners, saying that they were scared to rebuke and discipline – and even terminate – their players for sending the message that disrespecting the flag and the nation is acceptable … or even commendable.
“Ticket sales since he called on team owners to fire players who take a knee to protest the National Anthem have cratered,” the Examiner’s Paul Bedard noted.
The ticket retailer indicated that the drop in sales this year was much more dramatic than previous years.
"We have seen a massive decrease in NFL ticket purchases this past week in comparison to years past,” TickPick’s Jack Singland told the Washington Examiner. “Week 3 seems to usually have less ticket orders than week 2, but this year ticket purchases are down more than 7 percent from this time last year."
The exact reason for the decline in sales was not confirmed, but Trump’s war on the NFL’s unpatriotic protests appears to be the best explanation, as the ticket seller explained in a statement issued to another news agency.
"While we can't specify if this decrease is due to the president's comments, player and owner protests, play on the field, or simply the continued division of consumer's media attention, the conversation around the NFL this week has focused on the president's comments – as well as the players' and owners' reaction,” TickPick notified Townhall. “As viewers continue to abandon their NFL Sunday habits, both the number of ticket sales and the purchase price of tickets will drop."
TickPick was not the only major ticket seller that reported declining NFL ticket sales over the past week.
“Operators of two of the largest U.S. ticket marketplaces say they are seeing declines in orders for NFL games amid festering controversy over the national anthem,” CBS News’ MoneyWatch informed. “NFL ticket sales at TickPick slumped 17.9 percent this week compared with the prior week – their steepest decline since 2014, while sales at TicketCity plunged 31 percent. For pro football games in September, ticket sales at TicketCity are down 16 percent from a year ago. TickPick's NFL sales rose this month, but by the smallest margin since 2015.”
Even though the pioneer of the anthem protests, Colin Kaepernick, was not picked up by an NFL team this season after being released by the San Francisco 49ers, the spirit of his defiance still lives on, and football fans’ tolerance of millionaire athletes using the gridiron to make political statements is quickly coming to an end.
“The slump in ticket sales underscores the pressure facing the NFL over the anthem protests, which were started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick,” MoneyWatch’s Jonathan Berr pointed out. “The league's television ratings also appear affected, with viewership down 11 percent so far this season, and some fans are calling for a boycott of the NFL's corporate partners.”
Both sides of the field …
TickPick co-CEO Brett Goldberg noted the qualms an increasing number of fans have concerning the anthem protests.
"There are people who are saying that this is my form of entertainment, and I don't want politics in my entertainment," Goldberg told MoneyWatch, while asserting that he does not personally share this viewpoint.
The discontent on both sides of the issue is evident, as the split appears to be between the political Left and Right.
“A new poll by CBS News found that Americans are unhappy with both the protests during the anthem and President Trump's comments on the issue,” Berr announced. “Views hinge on partisanship, but also shift with how Americans view the intentions – not just the actions – of the players and president. Most Americans say that the players' intention is to try to call attention to racism. However, Republicans also feel the players are trying to disrespect the flag and the military, too – and strongly disapprove.”
Furthermore, it appears as if other professional sports where players have made their political views known – such as Stephen Curry of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors refusing to be honored by Trump at the White House because of his political differences – need help to sell tickets these days.
“StubHub – which didn't respond to request for comment – is offering a 10-percent discount on NFL, NBA and NHL tickets in a promotion on its website, a tactic Guiffre said is highly unusual for the ticket service,” Berr announced.
And with the inflated prices NFL fans are paying to see a football game – not a political demonstration – many are deciding to spend their investments elsewhere.
“Attending NFL games isn't cheap,” Berr stressed. “According to Vivid Seats, tickets cost an average of $172 this season – an increase of 6 percent compared with last year. Fans face wait times that can stretch into the decades for the right to buy season tickets for some teams.”
Many are anticipating political displays on the hardwood floor as well, when the National Basketball Association season starts this fall, as Curry appeared to be the one who incited the spike in NFL protests last weekend.
“The latest kerfuffle over the anthem began when President Trump last week rescinded the invitation of NBA champions the Golden State Warriors to visit the White House after the club's star player, Stephen Curry, said he was uneasy about the visit,” Berr recounted. “Although many in the sports world condemned Mr. Trump's remarks as tone-deaf, he then urged NFL owners to fire players who ‘disrespect’ the flag by not standing during the anthem. Several owners, including Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie, stood in solidarity with their players.”
Seeing the decreased patience in fans, some teams are already making an attempt at damage control to keep fans happy – and ticket sales up.
“The Green Bay Packers asked their fans at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to join them in locking arms in solidarity during [Thursday] night's national anthem prior to their game against the Chicago Bears, Burr noted. “Some, however, chose not to participate.”
Conservatives and other patriotic Americans are hoping that the multi-billion NFL empire will come crashing down if it continues to dishonor those who protect their country – and fund their exorbitant paychecks.
“Even with the controversy – coupled with mounting public attention on the link between football and brain injuries – the NFL remains a financial powerhouse,” Burr impressed. “The league remains by far the most popular U.S. professional sport and is expected to generate $17 billion in revenue this year. Even with its recent ratings decline, its games [are] also among the most watched shows on television.”