Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre waded into rough terrain this week when he tackled the topic of politics in sports.
During a town hall with President Donald Trump at the White House, Favre delved into declining TV ratings for various sports leagues and what it indicated regarding fan interests as a whole.
“The NBA and the NFL are struggling with lower ratings, as fans clearly do not want political messaging mixed with their sports.” Favre said. “So how should the leagues support and promote an anti-racism position without becoming political and alienating fans?”
Five weeks into the NFL season, the league’s ratings are down 14 percent compared to last year. Prior to the conclusion of its 2019-20 campaign, the NBA suffered a 37 percent decline in Playoff ratings and experienced historically low Finals viewership.
President Trump responded to Favre’s question by observing that social justice messaging had “a huge negative impact on sports” and that “football ought to get back to football and basketball to basketball.”
“Let politics remain separate,” President Trump continued. “If people want to protest, they can. But they shouldn’t be protesting on the sidelines during the football game, especially when they are making $10 million a year for something that they’d be doing anyway, for free, if they weren’t in the NFL or in the NBA.”
This past week, an NBA agent made the case that players should stay away from political topics for the sakes of their business interests.
“They initially did a great job by putting the bubble together and they completely s*** the bed with all this nonsense,” the anonymous NBA agent said.
“They really hurt the business. … All of this Black Lives Matter stuff. … I think that the players are being manipulated into something that they don’t really understand and I think it’s a horrible look for the league and they need to be very clear about the organization, what they stand for,” he added.
“… If that’s what the NBA wants to align with, they’re really hurting themselves. … They’re not helping the players, they’re hurting the sport. When the ratings are down 30%, who are you helping?”
Favre has never been one to shy away from controversial topics. This past August he openly talked about the impact of Colin Kaepernick and the idea of kneeling for the National Anthem.
“There is no right answer,” he said at the time. “I know from being in an NFL locker room for 20 years, regardless of race, background, money you grew up with, we were all brothers it didn’t matter.
LeBron is never one to bite his tongue. https://t.co/SuIuEiH3sS
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 23, 2020
“Guys got along great. Will that be the same? I don’t know. If one guy chooses to stand for his cause and another guy chooses to kneel for his cause, is one right and the other wrong? I don’t believe so. We tend to be fixed on highs.”
Favre was quick to point out that he had no idea what the black experience in America is truly like.
“I don’t know what it’s like to be Black,” he said.
Championship coaches do championship things. https://t.co/Rt7179e8TK
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 22, 2020
“It’s not for me to say what’s right and what’s wrong. I do know we should all be treated equal. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be in America.”
The topic of politics in sports is obviously a touchy one. While it is clear that a very outspoken segment of the sports-watching community is irritated by having social justice matters shoved in their faces, it is uncertain whether that is actually the contributing factor for the NBA’s and NFL’s ratings declines. After all, hockey is also suffering a similar decline – and nobody accuses them of being woke.
One way or another, when the election comes and goes, the political chatter will likely die down. Will ratings go up as a result? Time will tell.
A longtime sports reporter, Carlos Garcia has written about some of the biggest and most notable athletic events of the last 5 years. He has been credentialed to cover MLS, NBA and MLB games all over the United States. His work has been published on Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, AOL and the Washington Post.