The Broo View: NFL owners stuck between customers and employees on anthem issue

Posted at 5:06 PM, Oct 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-19 17:33:27-04

The much-anticipated NFL owners meeting with some of their players this week has come and gone, and this is what was resolved: Nothing.

We're facing another Sunday of wondering who's standing and who's kneeling. We probably won't get a hard call on that.

Even the TV networks know it's hurting them. Viewers don't want to see it, advertisers are growing weary of it, and the early casualty is ratings.

Don't think the national anthem is having an effect on ratings? The NFL's average TV audience through last weekend's game was down seven percent compared to last season. Stadium attendance was down 18 percent compared to 2015.

The Bengals, by the way, in the three Sundays they've played at Paul Brown Stadium, had the lowest attendance in the league.

Are there other mitigating factors than the anthem protest for the decline in TV ratings? Sure. In places like Miami and Houston, they've had natural disasters to worry about.

Fans hold up signs condemning members of the San Francisco 49ers who knelt during the National Anthem before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Oct. 15, 2017. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

But clearly this is the No. 1 issue facing the NFL today. It's so important that, at the quarterly owners meeting this week, Roger Goodell invited some players and their union reps to sit in. He's also limiting the number of participants from the 32 teams so all voices can be heard.

Ratings are down. Ratings affect revenues and revenues affect profits and potentially player salaries. Everyone is getting a seat at the table this week because everyone affiliated with the NFL could be looking at a financial hit.

I'm not a big believer in polls. They lied to us in the last several election cycles, so I'm not looking at polls regarding the anthem protest with blind faith. However, almost universally, they say this: You are split on whether or not players kneeling for the national anthem is a good thing.

A CNN poll taken two weeks ago said 49-percent of you think it's a wrong thing to do. Forty-three percent say it's the right thing to do.

A CBS poll taken in late September says more than seven in 10 of you think players kneeling during the national anthem is unpatriotic. A poll taken by the Remington Research Group overwhelming says you would like to see politics and sports less intertwined.

Even a 50-50 split is bad news for the NFL. Think about it. If McDonald's tests a McChili sandwich for its menu and only 50 percent of their consumers like it, guess what -- it's off the menu. If Buick decides it wants to put chrome around the steering wheels and only 50 percent of their consumers think it's a good idea, guess what -- it's not happening. Find me a business model where satisfying only 50 percent of your clientele works.

The NFL suits are now in full-scale crisis mode. They know if this isn't resolved to your liking, they will take a hit to their bottom line. The only time they get a conscience on anything is if it affects their wallets. (See the concussion issue.)

This is nothing more than a business decision. And the guy running the NFL, Roger Goodell, has been so weak on the major decisions that have confronted him in his time as commissioner, he has now painted his business into a corner. Because of his lack of leadership on this issue, the 32 people who pay Goodell are now confronted with this dilemma: Do they side with their customers or do they side with their employees?

I didn't attend nor graduate from the Wharton School of Business, but I know this. When any business is faced with that dilemma, it fails.

The NFL isn't going to go out of business anytime soon. So long as you can gamble legally or illegally on games and so long as there are fantasy football leagues, interest in the NFL will remain high. But will corporate America continue to partner with the NFL if there is no resolution to this issue? Short answer, probably not.

This isn't about whether or not you think the players have a legitimate concern. It's about what makes you want to buy the NFL. Tickets to games, gear, satellite TV games and things that their sponsors are selling are in play.

So far, only a handful of local advertising has split from NFL sponsorships. But the warning signs are there. The players have done a poor job explaining what they're protesting. A majority of you think this is about not respecting the flag or the people who have fought and died to protect it. They say its not. They explained their position once again on Wednesday, at the conclusion of two days of meetings with several owners. Their message still isn't getting through.

The owners are paralyzed. They're afraid of taking a stand, so some of them kneel with their players, not wanting to rip their locker rooms apart. Their message is as inconsistent as the players'.

The NFL, owners and players say they'll meet again later this month. The commissioner said Wednesday every player should stand for the anthem, but Goodell didn't say whether or not any owner (see Jerry Jones' statement from two weeks ago) can actually bench a player for not doing so. He said again that everyone loves the flag, loves the anthem, loves patriotism. Open mouth, empty words come out.

For the NFL, whichever side of the equation you come down on, this is still a hot mess.

Now for some random thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head lately.

The Steelers Mike Mitchell, native of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, will be a little lighter in the wallet. But he wasn't suspended for the hit he put on Chiefs' quarterback Alex Smith.

Gotta love Hue Jackson. He loves a party, even when he's not invited to it.

And the dumpster fire that is the Browns is in a full-blown burn now that Jackson has gone back to quarterback Deshone Kizer for this week's game against the Titans.

And just like that, another player's NBA season has come to a crashing halt.

Meantime, that call Wednesday night in game four of the Cubs-Dodgers NLCS was brutal. But at least the umpire who made the wrong call is admitting he blew it.

Fifty years ago today, this song was played on the radio for the first time, an absolute classic.

Co-written by Smokey Robinson and bandmate Al Cleveland, the song has its roots in tragedy and shopping.

Robinson's wife had prematurely given birth to twins who died. In attempt to help her through the sorrow of that, Robinson and Cleveland went shopping for a piece of jewelry for Robinson's wife. When the store clerk showed Smokey a necklace, he said he liked it.

Cleveland offer his opinion "I Second That Emotion," probably meaning to say "I second that motion." Whatever, Robinson thought it was a good title for a song.

And so became the start of a song that went to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts back in 1967.

Smokey's wife, Claudette, sings background vocals, along with the Temptations and a brand new member of the Supremes, Cindy Birdsong.