Former President Donald Trump’s stern critique of the NFL’s entanglement with divisive political movements has proven prescient. As the football season concluded, a glaring symptom of the NFL’s missteps became evident: desolate stadiums, a stark contrast to the league’s former glory.
Depending on where you look, get-in ticket prices for today's Carolina Panthers' game ranged from about $0.45 to $5. pic.twitter.com/CGd2fXJVHJ
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) December 17, 2023
This decline in fan engagement is a direct consequence of the NFL’s ill-advised decision to intertwine with movements like BLM and anti-police protests, which were sharply rebuked by Trump during his presidency. This politicization alienated not only conservative fans but also independents and some liberals, who yearned for the gridiron to remain a sanctum free of partisan strife.
The extent of this estrangement was vividly displayed on Dec. 17th at the Bank of America Stadium in Raleigh, NC. Images showed nearly vacant stands, despite ticket prices plummeting to as low as 45 cents. This was not merely a result of the Carolina Panthers’ poor performance or the inclement weather but a broader disaffection with the league’s political posturing.
— Empty Seats Galore (@EmptySeatsPics) December 17, 2023
Reports of high ticket sales by outlets like ESPN were contradicted by the undeniable reality of empty seats. While some point to new stadium policies, such as facial recognition entry for Silver Club members, as a deterrent, this doesn’t account for the widespread attendance slump affecting numerous teams.
In 2017, Trump poignantly criticized the NFL’s handling of players disrespecting the American flag, suggesting that owners should take a firmer stand. His remarks highlighted a growing disconnect between the league and its traditional fanbase. Trump also noted the decline in TV ratings, attributing it to both the league’s political involvement and changes in gameplay rules.
Years later, these issues seem to still resonate, vindicating Trump’s foresight. The NFL’s empty stadiums are not just a rebuke of its political ventures but a testament to the enduring appeal of Trump’s vision of patriotic, unifying sportsmanship.