Despite Abuse Scandals, The NFL Remains As Popular As Ever
A new poll indicates that NFL fans plan to keep watching despite the recent domestic abuse scandals.
A new NBC News/Marist poll finds that, while Americans disapprove of the manner in which the National Football League has handled incidents like the Ray Rice domestic violence case, they do not plan on changing the amount of football they watch:
So much for all that outrage. Nearly 90 percent of Americans say the recent outcry about domestic violence in the NFL hasn’t changed how much professional football they watch — and less than a third of the nation believes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should resign.
That’s the result of an exclusive NBC News/Marist poll, which also finds that a majority of Americans – including nearly six in 10 self-described football fans – say they disapprove of the way the NFL has handled the domestic-violence allegations.
The poll comes after a series of damaging stories indicating that NFL officials had turned a blind eye to systemic domestic violence among some of its players. The mounting controversies began with a new video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his now-wife unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator. The NFL had suspended Rice for two games due to the incident. But the Ravens later released the All-Pro running back after the video became public, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.
Since then, other allegations of domestic violence by NFL players has surfaced, including by Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson, who was indicted for beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch to punish him, and byArizona Cardinals player Jonathan Dwyer, who was arrestedfor allegedly assaulting his wife.
The NBC/Marist poll shows that 53 percent of Americans and 57 percent of football fans disapprove of the way the NFL has handled the recent reports of domestic violence. The survey finds that men are more disapproving of the NFL (55 percent say so) than women (50 percent).
Despite the criticism, fewer than a third of Americans – 29 percent – believe Goodell should be forced to resign.
And a whopping 86 percent of fans say the domestic violence news hasn’t changed the amount of professional football they watch. That’s compared will 11 percent of fans who say they’re less likely to watch, and 3 percent who are more likely to watch.
On some level, I suppose, there’s not very much surprising about this result. Sports in general, and football in particular, have become so ingrained as a part of American culture that it’s unlikely that a single scandal like this is going to cause people to stop watching games in the middle of the season. Despite two weeks of coverage of this story, plus the addition of the child abuse allegations against Adrian Peterson and the spousal and child abuse allegations against Arizona Cardinals Running Back Jonathan Dwyer, ratings for the Sunday afternoon NFL games, as well as Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football remain as high as ever and show no signs of declining. If anything, ratings are likely to increase as we get deeper into the season and the abuse scandals fade into memory while fans concentrate on their favorite teams. In other words, just another normal season.
In the end, this is why it’s unlikely that we’ll see the league take major steps beyond those that it has taken already. Contrary to the predictions I was making last week, I now believe the Roger Goodell is likely to survive as NFL Commissioner through the end of the season, and far beyond most likely. In the end, his fate is controlled by the owners and the owners are happy with him because he continues to make a huge amount of money for the them. There is some concern for the league in protecting its image and brand, which is why the initial response to the Ray Rice situation was a problem. That problem has now been rectified, though, and the response to the Peterson and Dwyer cases seems to make clear that, going forward, players charged with domestic violence will end up being suspended. It will be a suspension with pay, because that’s apparently what the agreement with the NFL Players Association requires, but at the very least these players will not be on the field on a regular basis until their cases are resolved by the court system. While there will be some advocates and talking heads on cable news who probably won’t be pleased with this, it will likely be enough to please the fans and, in the end, that’s all that matters. At the very least, though, the fact the vast majority of Americans are saying that their NFL viewing habits will not be impacted by the recent scandals is what matters most to the league, and for better or worse they will see it as a sign that the status quo is, by and large, entirely acceptable.