The Rise and Fall of the NFL (and NBA)
All empires rise and then fall just as the Greek, the Persian, the Roman, the Mongolian, the British, the Ottoman, the Soviet Union and one day unfortunately even the American Empire will fall. Just like an empire the NFL has grown slowly and steadily since its humble origins in the 1920’s. Then in the 1990’s it wrestled away the most popular sport status from baseball. Over the last several decades it grew even further as it hindered defensive players with rule changes in order to spur offensive statistics to engage fantasy football and gamblers. They even finally broke down earlier this year and allowed the Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas in 2020. But just as all empires and even great companies before it, eventually they mature then decline as there is no more territory or new markets to conquer to continue growth. President Trump didn’t kill the NFL, it was wobbling and sputtering before then. The recent revelations on concussions and CTE’s, the Ray Rice video footage and other off the field arrests, limiting TD celebrations and the Colin Kaepernick protests last year. President Trump and other conservative call for boycotts of the NFL is just the final nail in the coffin.
The NFL’s decision to take a side in culture war will hurt in financially besides ratings. Many owners rely on public funding to build new stadiums and that will no longer be a certainty. The NFL also enjoys a tax-exempt non-profit status, which allows it to distribute league revenue without paying any taxes and their bonds used to pay for stadium funding also enjoy a tax exempt status. This will also undoubtedly be put in jeopardy. Then throw in lost profits due to lost viewers and lower merchandise sales. Finally, we add the fact that consumers are cutting the cord from traditional cable or satellite subscriptions and ESPN continually loses subscribers. The NFL won’t fall off the face of the Earth but a 20–50% decline in league revenue and franchise values over the next decade seem highly likely. No longer can they just count on year over year growth and continued franchise appreciation. This will also have a dramatic effect on player salaries as franchises won’t even consider going into the red hoping to make it up on franchise appreciation.
The NBA is in a similar spot because the team, the Golden State Warriors, and it’s top players, LeBron, Steph Curry and Durant, that will likely dominate the league for the next 3–5 years have taken a side in the culture war as well. They also face issues with consumers cutting the cord and declining ESPN subscriptions but their one saving grace might be that the Celtics and Lakers could become relevant again in 3 years as the Warriors age and eventually decline. Otherwise, a similar decline for the NBA may also be in the cards.
President Trump won men decisively, the majority of sports fans are men and the overwhelming majority of fans believe the players should stand for the anthem. What were these leagues thinking? The players have no specific grievance against the President, just a generic they don’t like what he says or stands for or he’s racist because everyone else says it so it must be true. They offer no solutions. What they lack is self-awareness because the average athlete makes millions of dollars annually while the median income is under $60,000. It’s hard to sell a message of oppression and disadvantage under that reality.
Nobody wants to hear the rich guy talk about how much alimony he pays to his ex-wife or how expensive it is for his kids private school as he drives his Bentley to the local Starbucks every morning. The flag represents what unites us as we are all Americans and President Trump is fast becoming a working class and anti-establishment hero to his supporters. This is not a racial issue as the media and democrats try to make it out to be as always, this is a class and political one.