Football is a sport. Professional football is a sports-related entertainment business. The distinction matters. Businesses exist to make money. Period. End of sentence; end of debate. Any business that fails to satisfy the customer’s expectations is doomed.
That’s a simple fact of life that seems to have eluded leadership of social justice causes. Enter Shaun King, professional agitator.
Of course, to actually understand business one would actually have to work for a living, rather than constantly trying to foment racial tensions to turn a quick buck, but it’s obviously much easier to make demonstrably false claims about an NFL franchise so people donate to the cause. So King recently tweeted that Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had publicly announced that his team would never sign QB Colin Kaepernick because of his kneeling protest of the national anthem.
The only problem is that the tweet wasn’t remotely close to being true. The Eagles soon released the transcript of what Mr. Lurie actually said — which was the team was currently happy with their current quarterback situation, but if anything changed, the team would be interested in a further evaluation of Mr. Kaepernick as a potential replacement for an injured or under-performing team member.
Mr. King asserted that the Eagles retained a white player in the past known for using a racial epithet in order to portray the team as discriminating against Kaepernick because of race, while conveniently ignoring the fact that the Eagles had also employed Michael Vick after his release from prison at the risk of alienating animal lovers nationwide. Other critics have more generously described Mr. King’s tweet as unfair, wrong, and inaccurate.
Personally, I think they were deliberate and malicious lies being spread for personal profit.
Sure enough, the professional rabble-rouser doubled down. Rather than apologizing for what theoretically could have been an honest mistake, King has since called for a general boycott of the NFL. Presumably he intends to lead public pressure on the entire league until somebody capitulates and offers Kaepernick a contract.
Once again, the problem for Mr. King is his lack of understanding that professional football is a business with a customer base known as the general public.
This includes some people who are sympathetic to Black Lives Matter protestors, and others who aren’t. In reality, no one has deprived Colin Kaepernick of his First Amendment rights to free speech. At the same time, no business has an obligation to hire and pay someone millions of dollars for the privilege of potentially angering millions of their customer base and potentially causing themselves financial harm.
People also seem to forget that Kaepernick was under contract. He got greedy and opted out, gambling he’d make more money. He took the risk, and should have known the reward was not guaranteed. The problem for a player like Kaepernick is that football is a team game where the quarterback manages the offense, but that doesn’t always make him the best player on the team.
In fact, Trent Dilfer only passed for about 150 yards and one touchdown, but still led the Baltimore Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV because he didn’t turn the ball over. He played smart and didn’t try to do too much. Ray Lewis was the star on that team.
Strangely enough, the same networks who pay millions of dollars to the NFL for the privilege of televising games continue to call attention to the small minority of players protesting such as Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch, or Kaepernick.
It would seem that if the cameras simply stopped panning the sidelines during the anthem and stopped reporting on the players showing disrespect to the very country giving them the opportunity to earn millions of dollars, for one year of work, people might forget about Kaepernick and someone might even decide he’s worth the risk and the headache of having an attention-seeking player on the team.
After all, teams need fans, but ideally, they also want to win football games. Perhaps the league ought to consult with their business associates about this issue.
The NFL must compete for entertainment dollars with many other possibilities including college football, which some fans already prefer. The problem for the league is simple economics. Fans making less than $75,000 per year may not want to spend more than $100 per ticket to watch an average to mediocre player sit on his fanny as a deliberate show of disrespect for this land of opportunity. Quite frankly, it’s bad for business to let a few disgruntled employees drive away their customer base, especially if the customers perceive the anger issues are somewhat directed toward them.
That’s Economics 101. I’m guessing Mr. King must have studied drama instead.