NBA Too Political?
In a recent Harris Poll, 38 percent of sports fans say they are watching fewer NBA games. Over 2,000 fans were surveyed and given ten choices as to why they were watching less basketball.
38 percent of respondents say, "The league has become too political." 28 percent say the NBA "Boring without fans." At the same time, 19 percent do not approve of the league doing business with China.
Keep in mind that tip-off times have been far from normal since the league restarted at the end of July, with several games being played in the afternoon when people work. Also, primetime ratings are actually up over last year.
Maybe the most fascinating part of this survey is that the NBA is the most partisan of any of the professional sports leagues. Only 34 percent of Republicans say they "actively follow" the NBA, as opposed to 48 percent of Democrats. Compare that to the NFL, where 54 percent of Democrats actively follow versus 51 percent of Republicans.
To the NBA's credit, they took a stand. When you are willing to espouse what you believe, there is going to back backlash. Adam Silver, owners and players decided that there are some things more important than ratings.
The game's biggest star LeBon James, didn't mince words when President Trump was critical of players and coaches kneeling for the National Anthem. "The game will go on without his eyes on it."... "I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball: We could care less."
The NBA's ratings will continue to take a hit now that football is here. Mark Cuban is right; if the association wants to maximize its potential audience in the future, now is the time for a later start date.
Tipping-off in early December or by Christmas makes the most sense. Also, going later into the Summer gets you out of football's way and sets you up to eclipse baseball (if you haven't already.)
As for the political issue, we can't have it both ways. If we want players to be about more than a brand, they are going to speak their minds, and fans are going to disagree.
But, we also use sports as an escape to get away from our daily lives, and that includes politics. Maybe after November, things settle down, or at some point, we learn that we are all different, and that's not always a bad thing.
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With more than 20 years of experience hosting local and national radio shows, Erik Gee is a fixture of Oklahoma sports media. He has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for the past six seasons. He is also the co-host of the Pat Jones show on 97.1 The Sports Animal in Tulsa.