Now, suddenly, the league that was once for everyone seems to be in crisis. Worse, it has no natural constituency. Liberals think it’s dangerous, classist, totalitarian, and cruel. Conservatives think it’s pandering, too “politically correct.” A lot of this is attributable, like so much else, to the president. Dozens of players were protesting the first two weeks of the season, but no one seemed to care … until Trump’s weekend tweetstorm from his golf club back in September. But the fact that we’re even framing this in political terms — the idea that a game in which people throw a ball and tackle each other has somehow become another thing for us all to yell at each other about from our ideological corners — is a large part of the problem. You can no longer watch the NFL without thinking of everything swirling around it off the field. The bigger problem for the league is: So many people just aren’t watching at all.
Make no mistake; the NFL’s biggest problem is the NFL. If they’d just shut up and play football, the ratings would be fine. The more they do that isn’t football, the more the ratings tank. That’s not a coincidence.