Baylor professor on the responses to NFL protests

Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Journalist Photo credit: Jessica Hubble

Julia Vergara | Staff Writer

The NFL has been receiving many mixed reactions and responses to the recent protests taking place during football games. Many athletes and athletic teams have been taking a knee or sitting while the national anthem plays, leading many people to accuse the athletes of disrespecting the U.S. and others to defend their right to peacefully protest.

Kirk Wakefield, Edwin W. Streetman professor of retail marketing and executive Director of Baylor’s Center for Sports Sponsorship and Sales, has been watching how different generations respond to the protests and said millennials and older generations are responding differently.

“When studying fan behavior, you can put two and two together,” Wakefield said.

Wakefield said that season ticket holders tend to be married, in their 40s, with incomes over $100,000 and that people with these characteristics tend to be pretty conservative.

“Backlash over NFL protests has not been good for the NFL because the season ticket holders, as you might guess, tend to see those actions as disrespectful,” Wakefield said.

Wakefield said the younger millennials who feel like they have something to protest tend to see it differently. However, the younger generation does not make up the majority of season ticket holders.

The protests have already had a negative impact on business, Wakefield said. DirecTV has even offered a refund of the NFL Network to those who do not wish to watch it anymore because of the protests. NFL ratings were down 8 percent last year and continue to slide down each week of this season.

President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter several times to express his disapproval of the NFL protests.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump said in a tweet. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

Following Trump’s tweets, even more athletes took part in the NFL protests. According to an AP article, only six athletes protested two weeks ago while most NFL players took part in it this past Sunday, locking arms with their teammates in a “show of solidarity.”

Montgomery senior Jessica Green, president of the Baylor Democrats, said that she thinks there are two parts to the controversy with the NFL and the protests: a social protest that was headed by Colin Kaepernick when he first refused to stand for the anthem over a year ago and a separate reaction to Trump’s comments.

“Trump has a long and complicated history of aggression with the NFL,” Green said. “So his comments criticizing the players and coaches elicited their own protest that supported Kaepernick’s social protest, but may not have had the same motivations.”

Green said that as for the social protests, she believes a lot of Americans do not fully understand what it is being protested. She said it is important to understand that the protests are about more than the flag, anthem and football game—it’s about social inequality and police brutality.

Wakefield said the NFL has a real challenge in turning this situation around in a positive and unifying way. He suggests the NFL could give the athletes a platform to speak their mind where there’s an open discussion rather than the protests, booing and conflicts that are taking place now.

“If players want to have their say, that’s fine,” Wakefield said. “The NFL and owners should give them that opportunity someplace else that doesn’t cause division but causes common vision.”

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