On the Super Bowl: Boycott Not Necessarily a Good Political Tool
February 8, 2018
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Though it was still the most viewed TV event of the year, the Super Bowl saw a 10 percent dip in ratings this year — the lowest these figures have been in nine years. Why did so few people tune in for what was labeled one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history? Last summer, Shaun King, an American writer and activist primarily involved with the Black Lives Matter movement, called for a boycott of the National Football League when it became obvious that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t going to be reinstated into the league. Was the call to boycott the NFL successful? Although the numbers may suggest otherwise, no, it was not.
In August 2016, Kaepernick and fellow 49er teammate Eric Reid decided to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Subsequently, hundreds of players replicated their symbolic movement. Unfortunately, Kaepernick had to opt out of his contract and has been shunned by the league ever since.
Kaepernick’s story was a spark that ignited a fire on both sides of the political spectrum. A large chunk of Republicans also resorted to boycotting the NFL, but for different reasons: the kneel was an insult to war veterans and the United States as a whole, and the league should be more severe in its sanctions against participating players. The number of Republicans who planned on boycotting was greater than that of Democrats and Independents combined. President Donald Trump’s twitter coverage of the controversy and call for a boycott of the NFL most likely played a major part in bringing his most loyal base to weigh on the audiences.
Even though King claims success and points out the value of Black Lives Matter supporters working together to boycott an institution as a form of resistance to injustice, the opposing side’s resistance was equally as strong, if not stronger. The alleged two million African Americans who King claims boycotted the NFL in support of Kaepernick’s movement disappeared into the mass of all those who didn’t find themselves in front of their TV Sunday night, some of which did so in opposition to Kaepernick’s movement. While many people did boycott the NFL this season and the Super Bowl on Sunday, the boycott cannot be traced to one movement and could arguably hold a greater signature from those on the other side of the political spectrum. Therefore, some could even argue that King’s boycott backfired.
When both sides of the political coin call to boycott or shun the same organization, the initial intent loses its value, and it certainly doesn’t lead to any change when it is unclear what people are fighting for. Sure, the NFL might have lost some money, but will Kaepernick be reinstated, or will an apology be issued? Why would there be, when there is no real way of knowing how much of the drop in audiences came from the left objecting his treatment, and how much came from the right angered by his and his fellow players’ knee-taking? On the NYU campus and various Facebook groups, where politics and social issues are usually omnipresent, I didn’t hear any mention of the boycott until I brought it up. I didn’t see any posts online or publications urging students to make themselves heard by tuning out the Super Bowl. Maybe the student body had an instinct that this time, boycotting the game wasn’t the way to get things done.
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Email Julia at [email protected].