There have been all sorts of theories over the last month as to why NFL ratings, particularly the primetime games, have seen a marked decline.
On Thursday, one of the league’s most visible players, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, offered his thoughts on why fewer people are tuning in this season.
“Because the league isn’t fun anymore. Every other league, you see the players have a good time. It’s a game. This isn’t politics. This isn’t justice. This is entertainment,” Sherman said. “And they’re no longer allowing the players to entertain. They’re no longer allowing the players to show any kind of personality, any kind of uniqueness, any individuality. Because they want to control the product. They want to control the messaging, etc., etc. …
“They say we’re trying to influence kids, and that’s their biggest thing. That’s their biggest ploy is you don’t want to be a bad influence to kids. You don’t want to be a bad role model. And I can agree with that. But in the same breath, you can’t say Budweiser is the official sponsor of the NFL, and we’re trying to influence kids. So there’s a ton of hypocrisy, but it doesn’t matter because we don’t control it.”
Sherman has a point. The league decided before this season that penalizing celebrations would be a “point of emphasis,” and accordingly we’ve seen a massive increase in the number of flags and fines given to players who are simply celebrating something we’ve been told over and over is quite difficult to do, whether it’s scoring a touchdown, getting a sack or maybe a long interception return.
That’s not to say there aren’t other problems that are turning off viewers: the number of commercials is excessive, as is the number of unappealing matchups and the Thursday night product, which is almost always a poorly-played game.
But this is a league that had no problem taking money (over $12,000) from Giants defensive end Owa Odighizuwa for pretending to take a picture of his teammate that just scored on a crazy interception return while once again bungling the punishment for a confessed domestic abuser, Josh Brown.
Sherman had opinions on other topics, of course, including telling reporters that saying NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t doing a good job “is beating a dead horse” and affirming that he hasn’t been fined by the league despite being openly critical of officials.
“Sometimes the truth is the truth is the truth,” Sherman reasoned. “It is what it is. This is basically reality TV, so I guess I’m good for ratings, probably.”
He also, like many of us, believes the NFL’s emphasis on player safety rules is for show.
“I don’t buy it. That’s for public perception. I’ve said that several times,” Sherman said. “But they do care about paying the quarterback $20 million and him missing a season. They do care about that. So whether they say player safety or whatever it is, they’re tired of $20 million quarterbacks sitting on the bench or IR for the whole season, so they’re going to do whatever they can to protect their investments, and that’s universal.”
It is interesting that the league hasn’t tried to muzzle Sherman as he continues to be critical of the commissioner, league rules and league officials; it’s also refreshing to hear a player speak his mind.
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