In an essay that could come right out of 1984, Washington Post Ministry of Truth writers Drew Harwell and Rick Maese struggle to explain the abrupt erosion of the NFL’s televised audiences. They manage to cite every conceivable longer-term trend, such as saturation of the market, competition from other entertainment, the 2016 political race, and the decline in television viewing in general.
Yet these factors for the most part are familiar, insidious conditions that alone cannot explain this year’s historic and abrupt 15 percent drop in fall ratings.
The unmentioned San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick can.
His fad of ritually trashing the United States has now saturated millions of living rooms. His anti-American tirades and adolescent stage act enraged viewers, even after the refusal to stand for the anthem spread throughout the league without criticism from the NFL hierarchy — odd, given the now fossilized red/white/blue star-studded NFL logo.
What enraged viewers (I, too, turned off football) was mostly the multifaceted hypocrisy of both Kaepernick and the NFL:
a) A multiracial Kaepernick was raised by white suburban parents and is a $20 million–a–year pampered athlete, whose only prior racial editorialization earned him an NFL fine for using the N-word slur (Cura te ipsum), and who had little prior record of philanthropy to the African-American community.
b) Kaepernick’s sudden activism and high public profile coincided with his demotion to second-string-quarterback status (though today he is schedule to start). A not implausible suggestion followed that personal frustration — or connived and preemptive career deterrence — explained his newfound professional grandstanding.
c) Prestigious multimillionaire NFL athletes are nearly 70 percent African-American in an age when diversity is explained in a multiracial society as proportional representation — with few concessions given to the now obsolete idea of transcendent quantifiable merit — given the insidious role of “disparate impact” theory, which requires no demonstrable proof of racism to earn reparation hiring to meet correct ethnic and racial percentages. Yet somehow the NFL finds itself a sanctuary sport, exempt from civil-rights quota oversights that are ubiquitous on campus and in the workplace.
d) The NFL has a long history of insisting that all political messaging and behavior remain taboo and absent from the turf, from expressing support for fallen police to patriotic demonstrations. Nothing enrages Americans more than the combination of sanctimony with rank hypocrisy.
The postmodern NFL and media narrative can remain — for now. But there is no such thing as postmodern ratings, audience share — and money. When the last of these runs out, Kaepernick’s idealistic teammates will see that their contracts reflect their principles.