The National Football League will have to choose between fans and Colin Kaepernick. It’s that all-or-nothing and there’s nothing in between.

Kaepernick had a couple of very good seasons with San Francisco in 2012 and 2013, including a Super Bowl appearance, albeit a loss to Baltimore in 2012.  Well before his infamy for refusing to stand for the National Anthem, his performance tumbled and he was cut by the 49ers at the end of last season.  Lots of players shine briefly then see their talents fade.  Kaepernick extended his career with sideline antics that played to sports media’s emerging social justice screeching. But the whole league took a hit – from their fans.

JD Power gave the NFL the bad news as to why viewership tanked.

National anthem protests were the top reason that NFL fans watched fewer games last season, according to a new survey released by J.D. Power.

The pollster said it asked more than 9,200 people who attended either one football, basketball or hockey game whether they tuned into fewer games and why. Twenty-six percent of those who watched fewer games last season said that national anthem protests, some of which were led by Colin Kaepernick, were the reason.

After that, 24 percent of those surveyed who said they watched fewer games said they did so either because of the league’s off-the-field image issues with domestic violence or with game delays, including penalties.

NFL game viewership on networks that broadcast games was down an average of 8 percent for the 2016 regular season versus the season before. Before the election (Nov. 8), games for the first nine weeks were down 14 percent compared to 2015. The final eight weeks saw only a drop of 1 percent compared to Weeks 10-17 in 2015.

Since ad revenues, which are shared among all teams in the NFL, live and die with TV viewership, this audience bleed out is unsustainable. If the Baltimore Ravens sign Kaepernick, the cloud stays for all of the NFL.  This wasn’t just a 49ers problem, nor would it be only a Ravens problem.  These teams have only limited national broadcasts.  Most of the time the rest of the country is shown games with other teams. That means fans are turning away from games even if Kaepernick isn’t on the field, or the sidelines as the case will probably be. 

Ravens owner Steve Biscotti is publicly toying with the idea of signing Kaepernick.  A fan asked the owner at a recent team event.

In an answer that lasted more than four minutes, Bisciotti said he and team president Dick Cass, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh had discussed signing the free agent. The 57-year-old said he had also talked with former player Ray Lewis and consulted some current players over the possibility of adding Kaepernick to the playing staff.
“I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what is best for our fans,” said Bisciotti, sitting on a stool beside Cass and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Sunday.
“Your opinions matter to us. We’re very sensitive to it, and we’re monitoring it, and we’re still, as Ozzie says, scrimmaging it, and we’re trying to figure out what’s the right tact. So pray for us.”

At least one other owner checked in, Jerry Jones indirectly indicted Kaeperenick by threatening to cut players who did not stand for the national anthem.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar implored other NFL players to double down on Kaepernick’s protest.

Here’s the stark choice the league needs to make:  either take a hammer to the protests or watch the fans continue to march away.  That’s it. The evidence is that if Kaepernick or other players are coddled and social justice warriors decide what an NFL game looks like, the brand is damaged.  If, as SJWs allege,  there is a “soft collusion” among owners to shun Kaepernick, that would actually mean their individual consciences and fiduciary responsibility to their respective teams.

In other words, owners would be acting in their own interests to reject the totality of Kaepernick’s presence on their teams.  Owner Biscotti has been mocked for bringing prayer into the decision, so evidently conscience is good enough to drive Kaepernick to kneel but out of the question if ownership uses its own conscience to decide whether to bring him on the team and alienate fans.

Biscotti and the NFL can’t pray the fans back if they now make a move that’s been shown to be destructive to the interests of their teams and the league.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kaepernick’s apologists aren’t interested in the viability of the league.  In the world of social justice, the NFL owes them something even the sport is derided by fans and diminished in terms of its viability to support itself and countless working stiffs who sell tickets, hot dogs, work as security, stadium maintenance and everyone else down the food chain.

Numbers are science.  They don’t lie.  The NFL will have to choose between its fans and toxic dysfunction of Kaepernick and his apologists.