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Will vets force NFL’s hand with Veteran’s Day boycott?

NFL logoVeterans and their supporters are gearing up for an NFL protest of their own over Veteran’s Day weekend. Tired of what they perceive as disrespect to the national anthem, flag, and country, they want their voice heard by taking their eyes and ears away from the NFL.

An unscientific sample of several of my acquaintances who are vets indicates that such a boycott is gaining momentum among their wider network of fellow vets and ex-servicemen. Several Facebook pages are dedicated to this NFL boycott, including this one that has over 200,000 “likes” and 36,000 people committed or interested in the protest event.

Some fuel was added to the fire this past Sunday. Despite the fact it was the NFL’s “Salute to Service” Sunday, specifically created to honor servicemen, about 18 players from six teams continued their protest. As anyone who has followed this story knows, even though the players do not see their kneeling or sitting as disrespectful but as a way to call attention to legitimate grievances, many people – particularly vets – do perceive the players’ actions as an affront against America.

From a media perspective, an interesting aspect to this boycott is that many of the prospective boycotters are older men – so if they boycott will anyone care? I semi-jokingly said to one of my ex-serviceman friends that since he and his friends are outside the 18-49 and 25-54 demos, their boycott may be like the proverbial tree falling in the forest – if no one pays for the 55+ demo to begin with, does their viewership boycott even count?

Aside from key demos and even if the follow-through on the boycott is limited, such an organized boycott can still send a chilling message to NFL sponsors and advertisers. They are a much more important audience than the NFL or players, because once sponsors get worried about the impact of the protest on their brands, they will be able to force change on the NFL by threatening to terminate sponsorships or advertising. NBC recently confirmed advertiser concerns in Adweek.

The Art of the Deal

Looking at the past, we’ve seen far fewer than 36,000 people complaining being able to force changes in TV or media properties.  The interesting aspect here is that brands are coming down on both sides of this issue, so some compromise will need to be reached that will allow continued protests/calls to action while not impinging on the patriotic beliefs of a significant share of NFL fans.

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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