First I’d like to give honor to the Most High (Snoop Dogg), the members of the pulpit, the pastor, his wife, his mistress, the mother of the church, and all the saints and sinners in the audience. I am here today to ask for your prayers.
I am about to endure one of the bravest tests of character and faith a man can endure. I feel like Daniel headed into the lion’s den. I feel like David preparing to fight Goliath. I feel like Job getting ready to ... well, Job kinda got fucked over because he got caught in the middle of a bet, but you know what I mean.
I’m boycotting the NFL this season, even though I know it probably won’t work.
Let me offer this disclaimer: Before I was saved and sanctified and gave my life to The Root, I may or may not have worked for NFL-related companies analyzing revenue-related data. As such, I know that there is a seldom-mentioned fact that the National Football League and its partners never talk about: The NFL doesn’t care whether people watch it or not.
It seems antithetical to a profit-making venture, but it is true. The NFL has created a business model where its profits are not dependent on how many people consume the product. Even if people stop watching, the NFL makes the same amount of money. Here’s how it works.
The vast majority of NFL revenue comes from television rights, which are paid in advance. In 2014, CBS, NBC and Fox agreed to pay $3.5 billion every year for the rights to air NFL games on network television through 2023. DirecTV will kick in an additional $1.5 billion per year until 2022. Disney pays $2 billion per year to air games on ESPN and ABC. Amazon.com threw in $50 million to air games, along with foreign rights holders, who pay $500 million. The NFL network also makes around $1.2 billion from various affiliates.
That means the league will still make close to $9 billion from television rights this year, even if not a single soul tunes in to a football game. The NFL won’t even have to look at these deals until years from now. The checks are already cut. That’s a lot of tithes and offerings, church.
The rest of the NFL’s revenue comes from licensing, merchandising and sponsorships. Like the television deals, these contracts are made far in advance and are not dependent on ratings or ticket sales. In fact, every owner in the NFL knows they will make a profit regardless of how many tickets they sell. The only other venture that makes money without having to deliver results is ... well ... this one. The church.
In fact, the NFL brand is so powerful that the television networks don’t even care about the ratings. Last year the league’s ratings fell 8 percent, but advertising revenue increased! That’s because with a limited number of available ad slots, networks force companies to outbid one another for commercials. It’s kinda like when the church isn’t full, so the deacons ask you to dig deep into your pockets for the building fund. It’s the oldest trick in the book.
I’m sure some of you out there in the pews are thinking, “So if a boycott won’t have an economic impact on the NFL, the owners or the networks, then why do it?”
Well, saints, there is a verse in the book of 4 Thessalonians that reads, “And lo, He said unto them: Sometimes a nigga hath to do what a nigga gotta doeth.” (That’s not the King James Version.)
This is the point of protest. When Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem, I’m sure he didn’t think police would see it and say, “You know what? I was going to shoot a black boy in the face tomorrow, but I changed my mind.” I’m sure that when Muhammad Ali refused to join the Army, he didn’t believe that the U.S. military would say, “Well, if Ali ain’t coming, maybe we should wrap this thing up.” In fact, Kaepernick’s protest didn’t have a single quantifiable impact on black lives.
But he started something.
Last season, on the biggest stage in all of sports, he forced commentators of every color to talk about inequality. They discussed it on every pregame show. Announcers debated it during the week on sports radio across the country. He opened the door for players in other sports to talk about it. High school football players imitated it. White soccer players did it.
Even though he doesn’t have a job in the NFL this year, they are still discussing him. Players who would never have taken such a bold stance are beginning to do it in his absence. Isn’t that what protest is about?
Most importantly, church, I’m doing this out of solidarity. There were people who participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott who had never taken public transportation. They shuttled neighbors to work. They carried signs. They loved their neighbors as themselves. (I think I just made that up. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?)
Sometimes the reason our voices are ignored is that they can always find another Negro to point at who is cool with riding in the back of the bus. I don’t think those people are sellouts. Maybe it’s more comfortable on the back of the bus than walking 5 miles to work. It’s a long walk. Maybe his or her feet hurt. Maybe he or she is tired.
Aren’t we all tired?
Turn to your neighbor and say, “I ain’t tired yet.”
That’s why I’m not watching NFL football this year. It’s going to hurt me, but one of our problems is that we think resistance should be easy. We think progress can be achieved through social media memes instead of tired feet and sweaty necks. We think change is supposed to come without bruised knuckles and bloody skulls. It doesn’t work that way.
I am not under the illusion that if every black person stops watching the NFL, Colin Kaepernick will get a job. I don’t even think the owners, the commissioner or the networks care whether black people watch or not. It will not affect their bottom line at all. There probably aren’t enough people willing to do this to have any measurable impact on the most powerful sport in the world.
But once, while sitting in these same pews, I heard a story about a little boy named David who managed to kill a giant by himself. I bet after he killed that giant and everyone was giving him high-fives and buying him shots of Hennessy, someone asked him how he knew he would kill Goliath. Was it because he heard a loud booming voice? Was it because David prayed more than the rest of them? Did he know he’d win because his faith was stronger than everyone else’s? I always imagine David turned to that person, put down his Henny and said:
“Win? I had no idea whether I’d win or not. I just knew I had to fight.”
May Dogg bless you all.