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►  NFL Sunday ratings fall after Trump’s call for boycott of games

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NFL ratings declined on Sunday, though it was unclear whether the drop was related to Donald trump’s call for fans to boycott the games because of player protests.

Match-ups on Fox and NBC drew fewer viewers than a year earlier, while CBS said the number of people tuning in rose. Monday night’s game, featuring major draw Dallas Cowboys, may lift the weekend’s ratings. Viewership for the entire season has been down.

Over the weekend, Trump criticized players for kneeling during the national anthem, a practice started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a protest against police brutality and mistreatment of black Americans. Trump said owners should fire players who protested and urged fans to skip watching NFL games.

Debate over the national anthem was “a side issue” that’s likely to boost ratings for sports talks shows or pre-game shows, but not affect whether people watch the actual games, said Lee Berke, president of consultant LHB Sports Entertainment & Media.

“People are going to tune in for the match-ups, the stars and hometown teams,“ Berke said. “I don’t see any political controversy causing people to walk away.“

Fox said both of its pre-game shows had higher viewership.

On Monday, the president continued his attacks against the league, tweeting the hashtag #StandForOurAnthem and saying the “issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our country, flag and national anthem. NFL must respect this!“

The NBC Sunday night game drew an 11.6 overnight rating, a decline of about 10 percent from the Chicago-Dallas Sunday night match-up in Week 3 last year. CBS said its Sunday games drew an 11.9 overnight rating, a 4 percent increase from a year earlier.

The mixed results could be a sign that competitive match-ups rather than political controversy had a larger impact on whether people tune in. CBS’s games included Green Bay’s close-fought 27-24 overtime win over Cincinnati while NBC’s Sunday night game featured Washington with a 21-0 lead over Oakland with less than five minutes into the third quarter.

Overall, ratings for Sunday’s NFL matches were down about 4 percent, according to John Ourand, a reporter at Sports Business Journal. They’re likely to be up overall for the week after Monday night’s game, he said.

TV networks took the unusual step of airing the national anthems live on Sunday. Owners, broadcasters and league officials criticized Trump over the weekend, and more players than ever kneeled during renditions of the song. Some NFL players also locked arms or held up fists in solidarity. Several teams stayed in the locker room during the anthem.

“We respect individuals’ rights to express their views, even if they are not ones we share,“ said Ford, a major sponsor of the NFL, on Monday. “That’s part of what makes America great.“

The NFL said Monday it hadn’t seen any business impact—positive or negative—in the aftermath of the president’s comments.

For now, the NFL’s broadcast partners are not seeing the same audience boost that other media outlets, from CNN to the New York Times, witnessed after Trump criticized them. That may be partly due to the fact the NFL isn’t doing investigative journalism about the Trump administration or because of the diverse political makeup of NFL fans.


►  ‘I certainly disagree with what he said’: Tom Brady finally takes issue with Trump

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When the time came for the national anthem Sunday, one of the biggest questions of the day concerned New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Would Brady, who stood by his friendship with Donald Trump throughout the presidential campaign with maddeningly vague answers, take a knee in solidarity with his teammates after Trump called for NFL players who protest social injustice and racial inequality to be fired or suspended? Would he stand and lock arms with them? And, as the NFL’s leading player right now, would he actually say anything? He gave a hint Sunday, liking an Instagram photo posted by Aaron Rodgers of himself and three Packers players kneeling. On Monday morning, after standing for the anthem and linking arms with a teammate, Brady was more explicit.

“I certainly disagree with what he said,“ he said in his weekly WEEI radio appearance. “I thought it was just divisive. I just want to support my teammates. I am never one to say, ‘Oh, that is wrong. That is right.‘ I do believe in what I believe in. I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. Those are the values that my parents instilled in me.“

Trump set off a weekend of protests in the NFL and NBA on Friday, mentioning athletes such as Colin Kaepernick who do not stand for the anthem in a Huntsville, Alabama, speech. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a ##### off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s FIRED!‘“

He went on to tweet that theme Sunday, saying fans should boycott the games until owners fire or suspend the protesting players. That set off protests around the league, with more than 250 players either linking arms and standing, taking a knee or, in the case of three teams, choosing to remain in the locker room for the anthem.

Brady, who skipped the Patriots’ trip to Trump’s White House to celebrate their Super Bowl LI victory, stood with his teammates during the anthem and said he heard the boos in Gillette Stadium for those players who took a knee.

“Yeah, I did,“ Brady said. “No, I think everyone has the right to do whatever they want to do. If you don’t agree, that is fine. You can voice your disagreement, I think that is great. It’s part of our democracy. As long as it is done in a peaceful, respectful way, that is what our country has been all about.“

Brady’s friendship with Trump goes back over a decade and became headline fodder when a “Make America Great Again” cap was spotted in his locker in the fall of 2015. Last November, he sought to stay out of the debate but, when pressed by WEEI, said: “Donald is a good friend of mine. I have known him for a long time. I support all my friends. That is what I have to say. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s always been so supportive of me - for the last 15 years, since I judged a beauty pageant for him, which was one of the very first things that I did that I thought was really cool. That came along with winning the Super Bowl. He’s always invited me to play golf. I’ve always enjoyed his company.“

He tried to put the matter to rest before the Super Bowl, saying: “I don’t want to get into it, but if you know someone it doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or they do. You have a lot of friends in your life. I think there are things that are based in your own dealings with someone that is a personal dealing, not a public dealing. Because you have personal experiences.“

Brady’s comment Monday echoed owner Robert Kraft, a longtime friend of Trump’s as well.

“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,“ Kraft said in a statement. “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports and, unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.“


►  ‘The people run this country’: LeBron James doesn’t regret calling Trump a ‘bum’

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“That guy.“

No, LeBron James is not backing down from his criticism of Donald trump, preferring not to utter his name during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ media day.

“The people run this country,“ he said, “not one individual and damn sure not him.“

That echoes a tweet he published Saturday morning, one that has been liked nearly 1.5 million times and retweeted nearly 653,000 times. You know, the one in which he called the president “U bum” for pulling a White House invitation for Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors:

“U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!“

James saw the protests across the country at NFL games and was amazed.

“I salute the NFL, the players, the coaches, the owners and the fans . . . it was unbelievable. There was solidarity. There was no divide, no divide even from that guy that continues to try to divide us as people,“ he told reporters (transcription via SI.com). “Like I said on one of my social media platforms a couple days ago, the thing that kind of frustrated me and ###### me off a little bit, he used the sports platform to try to divide us.

“Sport and sports is so amazing, what sports can do for everyone, no matter the shape or size or race or ethnicity or religion or whatever. People finds teams, people find players, people find colors because of sport. And they just gravitate toward that, and it just makes them so happy. And it brings people together like none other. We’re not - I’m not - gonna let, while I have this platform, to let one individual, no matter the power, no matter the impact that he should have or she should have, ever use sports as a platform to divide us.

“And then you go to the other side and you don’t talk about sports, and they try to divide us from that side as well, and the one thing that I can say and just think about is how can we personally, throughout everything that that guy is doing, no matter if you voted for him or not. You may have made a mistake, and that’s okay. If you voted for him, it’s okay . . . Can we sit up here and say that I’m trying to make a difference, and can we sit up here and say I can look at myself in the mirror and say I want the best for the American people, no matter the skin color, no matter the race, no matter how tall or athletic you are, whatever the case may be. Can we sit up here and say we are trying to make a difference?

“Because we know this is the greatest country in the world. This is the land of the free, but we still have problems just like everybody else.“

James, who said he had no regrets about his tweet, couldn’t say whether there would be similar protests by NBA players when the season starts next month and promised to keep speaking out.

“. . . I will lend my voice, I will lend passion, I will lend my money, I will lend my resources to my youth and my inner city and outside my inner city to let these kids know that there is hope, there is greater walks of life, and not one individual, no matter if it’s the president of the United States or if it’s someone in your household, can stop your dreams from becoming a reality,“ James said.

James was one of several NBA stars to speak out against Trump on Monday, as 22 of the league’s 30 teams held media days.

In Washington, Wizards guard Bradley Beal called Trump a “clown.“

“There’s a lot of issues going on in the world, like Puerto Rico doesn’t have water and power and they’re still part of the U.S., but you’re worried about guys kneeling during the national anthem,“ Beal said.

Wizards guard John Wall echoed Beal’s comments about Trump.

“I don’t like anything he’s been saying,“ Wall said. “I don’t respect him, I feel like you can’t control what people want to do, and we have bigger issues in this world that you need to be focusing on instead of focusing on all these people taking a knee. It means something more important, they’re doing it for a reason, and you can’t do nothing but respect their decision. But you’re coming out and saying what people are and what they do, you’re not being respectful, you’re not being mindful. . . . I don’t respect him.“

Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich decried the recent comments from legendary former NASCAR driver Richard Petty, who said “anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country.“ Popovich, who has been highly critical of Trump since he was elected, described the United States as “an embarrassment in the world” and suggested that Americans have a choice to make.

“We can continue to bounce our heads off the wall with [Trump’s] conduct, or we can decide that the institutions of our country are more important, that people are more important, that the decent American that we all thought we had and want is more important and get down to business at the grass roots level and do what we have to do,“ he said.

Popovich said Trump’s decision to rescind the Warriors’ invitation was “disgusting,“ but also “comical” because “they weren’t going anyway,“ and he also spoke at length about white privilege.

“Obviously, race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that, but unless it is talked about, constantly, it’s not going to get better if people get bored,“ he said. “‘Oh, is it that again? They’re pulling the race card again. Why do we have to talk about that?‘ Well, because it’s uncomfortable, and there has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change. Whether it’s the LGBT movement, women’s suffrage, race, it doesn’t matter. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable, and especially white people because we’re comfortable. We still have no clue of what being born white means. If you read some of the recent literature, you’ll realize there really is no such thing as whiteness, but we kind of made that up. That’s not my original thought, but it’s true.

“It’s hard to sit down and decide that, yes, it’s like you’re at the 50-meter mark in a 100-meter dash. You’ve got that kind of a lead, yes, because you were born white. You have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically there. And they’ve been built up and cemented for hundreds of years. But many people can’t look at it, because it’s too difficult. It can’t be something that is on their plate on a daily basis. People want to hold their position, people want the status quo, people don’t want to give that up. And until it’s given up, it’s not going to be fixed.“

Memphis Grizzlies Coach David Fizdale said he hadn’t discussed Trump’s latest comments with his team, but he was impressed with the show of solidarity he saw among NFL players on Sunday. Fizdale also added that if his players decided to take a knee during the national anthem, he would join them.

“So many comments are made so often now that it’s like, you can’t meet with your team every single time that he decides to make outlandish statements like that,“ Fizdale said. “The great part about it is that what you saw was a community come together against what he said. That brought me great pride, whether they stood for the national anthem and locked arms, whether they had a hand on a brother or whether they were kneeling, I just thought it showed real togetherness, and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do when so many things right now are trying to divide us.“

On Sunday, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan issued a statement in response to a question from the Charlotte Observer about Trump rescinding the Warriors’ invitation to the White House.

“One of the fundamental rights this country is founded on was freedom of speech, and we have a long tradition of nonviolent, peaceful protest,“ Jordan wrote. “Those who exercise the right to peacefully express themselves should not be demonized or ostracized. At a time of increasing divisiveness and hate in this country, we should be looking for ways to work together and support each other and not create more division. I support Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA, its players and all those who wish to exercise their right to free speech.“

--> Wednesday, September 27, 2017
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