The NFL and ESPN have both damaged their brand recently. Of all people, Holman Jenkins at the WSJ missed the ESPN version. Another of our favorites, Jay Nordlinger at NRO missed the NFL version. Let’s start with Holman.
He starts with Jamele Hill as an example of the political controversy swirling around ESPN. Holman says:
It’s time to let the average American in on a secret, especially the average sports fan, two weeks into the Jemele Hill controversy. Ms. Hill, an ESPN on-air personality, sparked a furor by tweeting her opinion that Donald Trump is a “white supremacist” and his presidency a “direct result of white supremacy.”
Holman explains that Jamele isn’t being as rude as most people think. He says, and we agree:
Now, this epithet may not mean what you think it does. As Wikipedia or linguists or some on the disquieted left would be happy to tell you, in the mouths of “critical race theory” activists, white supremacy refers, in fact, to almost everybody and everything. CUNY’s Angus Johnston, an enthusiastic purveyor, explained on Twitter last year: “White supremacy isn’t about what is in somebody’s heart. It’s about who wields political power.”
Then, after reporting that ESPN is losing two million subscribers a year he switches to the issue of streaming sports and says Amazon etc. cannot compete with ESPN because of technical limitations. Holman has missed the point. ESPN has suffered substantial brand damage. Folks are not going to research the details of what Jamele and compatriots have said. They feel insulted and we will see more comparisons between ESPN/NFL and NASCAR and calls to boycott ESPN/NFL. The next negotiations between the networks and NFL should be interesting.
Over at NRO, Jay Nordlinger is upset because of some of The Donald’s comments at a rally. We agree in part. We wish that The Donald were less like his immediate predecessor (HIP). HIP couldn’t keep quiet and neither can The Donald. Here is Jay’s lead-in and quote:
Saturday, at a rally supporting Luther Strange in Alabama, President Trump decided to reignite the issue, and essentially argued that players who kneel for the national anthem should be fired: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a b—h off the field right now. He is fired.” [Emphasis added]
We hate to get into the literally versions serious argument but we think Jay is going too far in saying that The Donald is arguing that folks should be fired. As we said, we wish The Donald would leave it alone. But what he said was “Wouldn’t you love it…” The answer is that lots of fans would love it unless it was a player for their team.
Sidebar: Kyle Smith at NRO has an interesting take that Colin and his friends were losing the argument until The Donald restarted the controversy. Kyle says:
If you’re an NFL fan, you can only be aghast at what Trump has done. His side — our side, the side that said you shouldn’t insult the flag because of the mistakes made by some police officers — was winning.
We’re not convinced on who was winning but it is an interesting take. End Sidebar.
Our problem with Holman and Jay is that ESPN and the NFL are hurting their brand. They are hurting their brand because, in Kyle’s terms, there is much interest to make America normal again. In addition, lots of fans are on the right. It is easy to hurt a brand and hard to repair the damage. The Donald recognizes that he benefits by being on the popular side of the question. We’d prefer he and HIP stay out of these controversies. Holman and Jay need to recognize the damage ESPN and the NFL have done to themselves.