- For some fans, this NFL weekend was a breaking point. Readers of The MMQB explain why they’re planning to tune out, give up their season tickets and spend their Sundays away from the TV or the stadium
Following an NFL weekend that saw players and teams respond to President Trump's comments about the league with more demonstrations during the anthem, The MMQB received numerous emails from NFL fans who said they’d had enough of politics mixing with sports and are done watching the NFL. Here are some of those messages.
(The following letter was sent to the Steelers’ ticket office and the office of the NFL commissioner, and cc’d to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Dear Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL:
I want to thank you for freeing up my Sundays. Some of the earliest memories of my life are watching Steelers games with my dad. I was once a season-ticket holder. I have occasionally missed a few games on TV through the years due to scheduling conflicts, but I can honestly say in my 44 years of living, I have never intentionally turned off a Steelers game. That changed today. As I sat down to watch the Steelers-Bears game today, I learned from the sideline reporter that the Steelers chose not to participate in the national anthem. I realize that there is a lot of injustice in our country. I realize that there are a lot of people upset at the current administration. I realize that we live in a free country where people have the freedom to not participate in the national anthem. I also have the freedom to not spend another minute or dollar on your product. I am of the opinion that this is quite possibly the worst way to go about “protesting.” If you want to hold a rally at Heinz Field to allow your players to voice their opinions, that would be fine. If you want all the Steelers and NFL players to march on Washington D.C., fine. But to not participate in the national anthem is an insult to every serviceman who has served or has passed away defending this country. If you are truly that unhappy with the country, feel free to play for the CFL. So thank you, Steelers and NFL, for freeing up my Sundays. I will no longer waste my time or money watching your product. The weather today the in Pittsburgh area is beautiful and I can not think of a better day to spend it outside, away from the TV. — Jim Coletti, former fan
I am in my 40s, and as long as I can remember the NFL has been part of my life (I was always told, I was born a Raiders fan). Football had become my break and my escape from the rest of the world. No matter what was going on everywhere else in the world, I could tune into a game on Sunday, turn the dial to sports radio or skip the other sections of the newspaper and go straight to sports. Sports could be my little oasis away from it all.
Occasionally, politics and sports collided, but it was mostly just a side note and we got back to the sports. Unfortunately, politics have now taken a front seat in the NFL. Sports radio all week talked about Donald Trump and protests. The pregame shows made it a huge part, including going to the commercial break, “We will be right back for our national anthem,” which they never announced before. Sports radio this morning seemed to all lead off with anthem protest talk. And despite an exciting day in the NFL with endless storylines involving the actual play on the field, The MMQB [column] leads off with the political angle.
This isn't an NFL players need to stick to football stance. I am not racist or a Trump supporter (the default accusations I get when I state this opinion). I am just a lifelong fan who enjoyed having football be my break from all of this, and it no longer is. If I went to the theater to watch a movie, and before the movie, during the movie and then after the movie I had to listen to PSAs regarding the actors’/actresses’ political stances, I would quit going to movies, just like I am going to quit watching and reading about the NFL.
I was surprised at how hard and emotional it was to make this decision. I didn't realize how passionate a fan I was until I decided it was time to leave. Thank you for your many years of providing me great reading material while I had my coffee and breakfast on Mondays mornings. You were part of my weekly routine, which will now be changing starting this Sunday, when I will be on a lake fishing instead of a couchsurfing. — Tim, signing off
As a 24-year veteran, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. When American citizens exercise their Constitutional rights, it lets me know I did my job whether I agree with them or not. While I don't think the flag or national anthem should be used in protests, I support anyone's right to do so.
However, I hate politics. It's all over social media, television ... I can't even go out anymore without overhearing people having heated political discussion. Football used to provide me an escape from all that crap. Now politics has infiltrated something I used to love. I have been an NFL fan since 1978. I spent every Sunday watching the games. I knew this past Sunday was going to suck, so I went sailing instead. It was nice. Out on the water alone with my thoughts. I think I may have watched my last NFL game. — Kevin Williams
I have cancelled NFL Sunday Ticket and will be sending the remaining money to www.leadthewayfund.org. I’ve been reading MMQB for years, but that too will end. I will no longer be supporting anything NFL or NFL-adjacent going forward. Make yourselves feel good about rich athletes protesting inequality all you want, but real people in America are working hard to live decent, productive lives, and we don't need politics infused in what was once an escape. Look forward to the standard MMQB response of “... then don't read the column if you don't agree with us.” Reaffirms my position. — Keith in San Diego (and yes, Chargers leaving hasn't helped)
I am a football fan, always have been. I am no longer watching. I have cut down my consumption of sports radio and columns. I think I speak for a large group.I have 18 stations of 24 hour news. I have a bazillion political websites and talk shows. They are all angry and opinionated. Good for them, I watch when I need to. Sunday is my escape. Sports are entertainment. I need a break from all that anger and yelling and name-calling. Now it permeates my escape. Politics and the editorializing thereof ruins my game-day experience. I have enough stress without 20 minutes of every game and half of all the game stories being more politics. Sports are supposed to be about competition (and beer!), entertainment (and beer!) and a few hours of being occupied by something else besides how polarized we all are. In my case, that is why the ratings are down, why the sports stations are declining in viewership, etc. NFL, please get back to football... The fishing shows are just boring! — Michael Peters
Sonny Jurgensen was my favorite player growing up, so you can tell I've been watching the NFL for a while. Watched as Billy Kilmer and his wobbly passes replaced him and didn't miss a beat. Great time to be a football fan. Now politics has reared its ugly head and crept into the game. This whole country has gone crazy. Maybe it was escapism, but it was nice to be able to watch without any of that in the game. I know there is a lot of social injustice in the world and the USA might lead the way in this, but it was nice to be able to watch a game without any of this involved.
Yesterday was the first Sunday I didn’t watch a minute of football since before Nixon. Don’t plan on watching any more. Which really hurts, since I’ve been a Falcons fan since they drafted Tommy Nobis. If this is what football has come to, stick a fork in me, because I’m done. — Richard Watson, Greenville, S.C.
Born and raised in Akron Ohio, a stone’s through from Pittsburgh, I’ve been a Steelers fan my entire life. No matter what the team was doing, First Amendment or not, the flag and the anthem are for honoring the fallen and those who serve. Simple as that. I will never watch an NFL game again. I will never spend a dime on the NFL. And I will be forever heartbroken on Sundays. Goodbye my Steelers. Goodbye. —James
Roger Goodell and the feckless owners have ruined America’s favorite pastime for millions of Americans. May it hurt them in the only place where they feel pain: their financial bottom line. I never thought I would be forced to choose between my love of pro football and fidelity to the patriotic traditions I was raised on, but now that it comes to that, it's a very easy choice. The NFL loses. — Ed Clayton
I’m disgusted by these players and owners not standing for the national anthem. I completely support President Trump on this issue.
The NFL is the only sport and league that I follow anymore. Not now. As of this moment I’m boycotting all things NFL and by association this website, until I hear that owners and players have come to their senses. If they want to protest racism in this country, there has to be a better way than dissing the flag and all that have fought for the freedoms we enjoy.
Huzzah to President Trump. A pox on Commissioner Goodell and the NFL’s owners. The NFL will have one less viewer and reader this season. — Todd Greene, San Diego
Have read your column avidly for years, first thing Monday morning. Love your insight into the game and the personalities of those involved. The fact that I don’t share your political views in no way detracts from that enjoyment. Heck, I don’t like coffee or the taste of beer, and you write about those all the time. To each his own.
But like many who I’ve seen write to you before (major props for publishing those critical emails) I’ve become increasingly saddened by the politicization of the game I love. And this from a guy who grew up in a super politically active household. My mom was a Representative in the Arizona House for years. I voted for the first time on my 18th birthday. I follow politics closely, reading political columns and newsletters on Monday as well, but not until after my MMQB.
I’m a pastor who happens to be very much against school prayer. We live in a diverse society, a society I share with many people who share my beliefs, and even more who don’t. I love the fact that I’m free to believe as I do, and even make my living giving weekly presentations about my faith, to which the general public is invited. And the vast majority of those in my community decline. That’s okay. The same society that grants me the freedom to believe as I do gives them every right to not share my beliefs.
So we make a deal. I can believe like I do, you like you do, and we can still be friends and neighbors because we share so many other aspects of our lives that are secular. Like school. Like sports. We don’t live in a theocracy, which is fine by me. If we did, and my faith were not the dominant one, then I’d suffer the same fate as religious minorities all over the world.
Now imagine a world where my faith was the dominant one. Where you couldn’t watch a movie, or enjoy a TV show or go to a game without having to sit through a sermon. Where even the news was delivered from the perspective of a religious person. I wouldn’t want to live in that world.
And yet I increasingly feel like I do. I love movies, and used to watch the Oscars every year. But I gave that up when they stopped being about celebrating film and turned into a political rally. You find your political views mocked, and feel like you’re on the receiving end of well, a sermon. Same with the Emmys. But I figured that if I didn’t want the sermon, I didn’t have to watch.
Football used to be a place where people of all races, religions and political views could come together. Not anymore. Now you have to sit through the sermon. And the tough things about not liking the sermon is that those preaching it love the message. They believe it. They think it would be great if you embraced their belief. Believe me, I know. So they feel justified in making everything about The Message.
So I’m left with the same option for football that I have for entertainment. If I don’t want to sit through the sermon, I have to turn it off. It just seems like a weird business model to actively try and run off half your audience, then be stunned when the audience begins to shrink. I want to keep watching. I love football. I play fantasy. I watch the highlight shows, even the cruddy ones.
I guess I just miss the days when sermons were limited to church. — Kevin Carlson, Mesa, Ari.
I've been a Pittsburgh Steeler fan for 54 years, but that association ended Sunday! Along with that association, I've ended any association with the NFL or their sponsors… I'll spend my time watching golf or NASCAR. — Greg Greenman
We turned off football today, for the first time in 30 years. Really, who is allowed to protest at work? The NFL players are at work. I really don't care what they think, just play ball. The flag means more to me than a football game. I have lost so much respect for these men. I will also not be be buying products that sponsor the NFL. I know I am just one person, but let’s really do something worthwhile, instead of disrespecting the flag. — Cindy Robertson
When the NFL stands up I will return to watching NFL football. Actually, I survived quite well no longer watching the Buffalo Bills. — Elona
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