From a public relations perspective, the National Football League is having a rough year. With tens of thousands of fans protesting due to players kneeling during the National Anthem and yet another case of a self-professed wife beater getting a slap on the wrist, the NFL is struggling to remake its flailing brand.
More and more, players are being viewed as overpaid thugs while management looks increasingly like it’s losing its grip on things from the top down.
Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is fielding one of the most-watched World Series in recent memory. Two teams that have been shut out of the big dance for decades are fighting to win it all, and American sports fans can’t look away.
Cubs v. Indians has become must-see TV and, so far, the games are living up to the hype. The teams are battling fiercely, each side giving their fans something to cheer about and cause for hope. After each team had a decisive victory in the first two contests of the best of seven matches, the Indians won a 1-0 squeaker in game 3. Fans are loving the historic competition, and ratings are climbing with each game.
Meanwhile, NFL rankings are, comparatively, in the tank. For decades, the NFL was the go-to American sport. Ratings were so customarily high; no one imagined they could fall. Both the NFL and the networks that broadcast the games felt like they couldn’t get enough of the golden goose, so they just kept giving the public more and more, assuming there really wasn’t a limit to what people would watch as long as it had the NFL logo attached to it.
Gradually, Sunday afternoon and Monday night football became pretty much all day Sunday as well as all night Monday and all night Thursday football. The pregame shows started earlier and earlier, and the Thursday games saturated the market to the point that gimmicks became almost immediately necessary to get eyes on the product.
Unfortunately for the NFL, they chose one of the silliest gimmicks since “He Hate Me” in the ill-fated XFL. You know where I’m going with this: color rush games. Clad head to foot in a single color, players looked ridiculous, and fans immediately had something to scoff at. No longer were they looking at heroes, virtual supermen, battling on the screen. They were watching, as one clever social media gif pointed out, ketchup versus mustard on the gridiron.
Suddenly, the NFL was a joke. Meanwhile, the league was going hard after the Patriots for Deflategate, something that even the biggest Patriot-haters thought was an over the top witch hunt. Meanwhile, one player after another was caught up in domestic abuse scandals and a top tight end went to prison for murder.
And that was all before a growing number of players decided to take a knee during the Anthem and enrage a huge percentage of the NFL’s most ardent fans. If the league can’t clean up their PR problems – and fast – baseball could once again overtake the NFL in the hearts and minds of American