It took a while. But evidence that the National Football League boycott, inspired by African-American football players and carried out by their fans, is working. The national anthem protest to raise awareness of racial bias in criminal justice has effectively created disruption—causing TV ratings to fall about 5 percent compared to the same time last season.
The disruption is now affecting the league’s finances, which will no doubt command it’s full attention. According to ESPN, the first blow to the NFL’s wallet came on Wednesday from Papa John’s, the league’s official pizza company, during a conference call.
Company founder and CEO John Schnatter said the NFL’s failure to resolve the protest is harming Papa John’s profits. Consequently, the company has withdrawn NFL television advertising.
“Leadership starts at the top and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said, according to ESPN.
Bloomberg News said it’s difficult to quantify how much profits declined because of falling NFL TV ratings. Nevertheless, Papa John’s shares fell up to 13 percent on Wednesday, which represents a two-year low.
Michael Halen, a Bloomberg analyst, said it’s not unreasonable to conclude that fewer people are ordering Papa John’s pizzas because fewer people are watching football games and seeing the company’s ads.
At the start of the 2017 season, an estimated 1,000 people rallied in support of free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who apparently has been blackballed by the NFL for starting the protest last year.
It has blossomed into a movement that has drawing in many supporters and opponents, sparking a national debate that has evolved into questions about free speech and patriotism. Some people have chosen to boycott the NFL out of anger that team owners have not fired players for kneeling during the anthem.