NFL’s mishandling of flag and anthem controversy only the latest way it’s let fans down: Brendan Decker (Opinion)

November 26, 2017

NFL’s mishandling of flag and anthem controversy only the latest way it’s let fans down: Brendan Decker (Opinion)

BALTIMORE -- I am a 43-year-old man who is a longtime Cleveland Browns fan and a former season ticket holder (before I moved away from the area in 2003). I have spent most of my life watching professional football. I have spent a lot of time and money over the years on tickets, travel, cable TV packages, merchandise, concessions and charitable causes related to the sport. I have visited multiple NFL stadiums.

I have remained loyal to the NFL when the Browns’ move to Baltimore was announced back in 1995.

Cleveland Browns move to Baltimore left city stunned, angered

I have remained loyal to the NFL since the Browns returned in 1999, even though the organization has since transferred ownership and has continually failed to put a respectable team together for many consecutive seasons.

Over the past several years, I have turned a blind eye to the disloyalty of NFL owners, who have relocated franchises without any concern for their loyal fans. I have turned a blind eye to the increasingly astronomical costs associated with attending games (especially big games, like the Super Bowl).

I have turned a blind eye to the increasing efforts of transitioning the NFL into a global game at the expense of the traditional American fans, who have built the league up to where it is today. Nobody pays attention to the loyal, older generations of American fans anymore!

I have turned a blind eye to the changes that have negatively impacted how the game is played, including the game stoppages, commercials, and rule changes which have taken away the fun of watching defense and tackling.

I have turned a blind eye to all the marketing schemes and the advertising gimmicks (by the way, wearing pink uniforms for an entire month is a terrible idea), which have made the game more annoying to watch on TV.

And most importantly, I have turned a blind eye to the player antics both on and off the field, which has made it very difficult to respect anybody on a team due to increasingly bad attitudes. This is a problem that has plagued the league for years now.

I understand that, as Americans, we are fortunate to live in a country where people have the right to peacefully protest. I am also aware of the issues that many African-American people have with law enforcement.

Recently, I have heard many coaches and players talk about promoting “inclusiveness,” and supporting everyone’s feelings.

Browns players lock arms with police, military during national anthem

The problem with this mentality, though, is that there are always people who end up offended and disrespected. I (and many other Americans) feel offended and disrespected by the recent actions of NFL players who are kneeling for the national anthem. Who inside the structure of the NFL league offices is actually concerned or sympathetic towards the feelings of fans like me?

The NFL needs reminding that the game is not bigger than the fans spending the time and money supporting it. The NFL also needs reminding that a majority of its football fans are not interested in the game day political drama, which many people do not support to begin with.

Sports are supposed to be a release from the political issues of the real world. You would think that a league which appears to be primarily interested in turning a profit would realize this simple concept!

Finally and most importantly, the NFL needs to know that even though the U.S. Constitution respects both freedom of speech and the right for citizens to peacefully protest, employees are not necessarily afforded the right to exercise these political actions while on the job. If so, expect consumer backlash. Not many of us in the workplace have the luxury of expressing and demonstrating our opinions freely in front of paying customers. Again, I am surprised that the NFL is not willing to take a stand against this behavior, when it knows that it alienates more than half of their paying customers!

Be prepared to see a continued drop in both viewership and revenue.

I believe that fans like me will stay away from this game until a genuine effort is made to restore respect for the flag, law enforcement, and the fans who feel betrayed and ignored.

Brendan Decker is a longtime Cleveland Browns fans and former season ticket holder who now lives in Baltimore.


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