Scoring For Liberty: Football, the National Anthem and the XFL
Should professional athletes stand for the national anthem? That’s the question that fueled most debates involving the National Football League at the beginning of the season.
Personally, I don’t care if the players stand for the Star Spangled Banner. I took it as expression of free speech and peaceful protest and figured if it wasn’t received well, then the NFL, being a business, would make some changes to save their brand.
But, the league doesn’t seem to care much about changing anything, and their viewership has been declining since 2015. When something like having players stand for the national anthem comes into demand, the market then provides.
The product that is seeking to fill that gap is the return of WWE founder Vince McMahon’s Xtreme Football League, a project that only lasted a year and featured looser rules, scantily clad cheerleaders and player-chosen jersey names.
Some of the rules in the original XFL included an opening scramble to determine who had first possession of the ball, tackling wide receivers before the quarterback released the ball, and no fair catches on punt returns, making the game much more physical and continuous.
All of what was a part of the old XFL will be dropped and more sensible rules and features are to be adopted. McMahon stated, “Don’t get me wrong, it’s still football but it’s professional football re-imagined.”
McMahon announced the 2020 reappearance last week and promised that his players would be required to stand for the national anthem amongst the demand expressed by current NFL fans.
“People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” he explained.
Attempting to make his league more family friendly, the XFL owner declared that any player with a criminal record will not be allowed to play. He also promised that the games would be shorter than typical professional games, and half-time may be cut altogether.
This is a perfect example of supply and demand in the market of ideas and how people should conduct themselves when they have political differences with a business. Political injustice can be fought more effectively by voting with your dollar (or your lack of viewership) than trying to pass legislation forcing a business to comply.
Research has shown that while the average game length is not much longer than a decade ago, the difference is that more time is spent reviewing plays, watching commercials, referees delivering penalties, and passes being incomplete.
Fans seem to cry every year that the games take too long, but what they’re really craving is more action within the time or as FiveThirtyEight describes it “If Goodell and the NFL leadership want to make their TV product more compelling, they’ll focus less on making games end sooner and more on reducing the amount of football-watching time we spend watching stuff that isn’t football.”
The XFL looks to combat that by caving to audience demand and making game times shorter and having less rules halting plays. With the backlash of players protesting during the National Anthem, it’s just another service that McMahon can use to fill a hole in the market.
Public demand can dictate the morality of actions more swiftly than a congressman.
When professional baseball went through its steroid period, it was public outcry and media reporting that ultimately forced the leadership of the organization to adopt more consistent drug enforcement policies and likewise, the XFL has the potential to allow the public to dictate how they wish their athletes to behave in regards to the United States’ Anthem.
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