It is almost impossible to argue that the Covid-19 Pandemic has hurt President Trump’s popularity. We can argue how much or how bad, but the virus had had a negative impact on The Don. But if you want to see folks with worse numbers, check out the folks at the National Basketball Association (NBA) – specifically the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
The Lakers were expected to come out on top in the finals – and they did. But this commentary is not about the standings or a play-by-play account. I leave that to the sports pages.
Traditionally, the finals are a must watch for sports fans – but not this time. And that is a story in itself.
The television viewership of the NBA finals was abysmal – and the reason may be as political as is everything else this election year. The first game of the series drew an audience of 7.4 million – making it the least watched NBA championship game since 1988. Game 2 dropped to 6.6 million viewers – the lowest NBA finals audience EVER.
Things could not get worse. Oh, but they did. Game 3 viewership dropped to 5.9 million. Game 4 showed an increase to 7.5 million — which is credited to the Heats win in game 3. But game 5 went down to 5.7 million viewers –another record low. And the season ending game 6 languished at 5.6 million viewers.
This was happening despite the fact that the Lakers are one of the nation’s most popular teams and superstar LeBron James is the biggest box office in basketball. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is reported to be surprised at the low ratings. It is even more surprising since fans cannot fill the stadium. It is television or nothing – and it appears nothing is winning out among a lot of former fans.
Some argue that it is because the Covid-19 Pandemic has disrupted the schedule. That could be a factor, but the virus also has kept a lot of folks at home with nothing to do but play video games and watch television.
Then there is that OTHER reason – the one the television folks do not like to talk about in these days of political correctness. Did the NBA anger fans when they brought politics onto the floor – especially embracing the Black Lives Matter, Inc.?
As a concept of black lives mattering – meaning opposition to racial injustice, where it exists – is broadly accepted among the American public. But Black Lives Matter, Inc. – the official organization that promotes a version that is anti-white, anti-law enforcement and politically aligned to the radial socials left is quite another thing.
Black lives mattering should not be seen as opposition to blue lives mattering, white lives matter and, indeed, all lives mattering. The NBA is following in the footsteps of the National Football League that has seen its ratings drop because the League and the owners have allowed their playing fields to become platforms of controversial social and political protest.
There are venues in which we can debate politics and policy, but there are some in which such divisive dialogue should be avoided. People embrace sports as a respite from the hyperbolic and supercharged rhetoric of political controversy. Placing politics on center stage in the stadiums is bound to cause an adverse reaction among the general public – especially when the political expression is anti-flag, anti-National Anthem – and promotes tribalism over e pluribus unum.
Even the sports cheerleader, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, weighed in by criticizing Texas Senator Ted Cruz for saying he was not watching any of the NBA finals. But Cuban was not supportive of the new political activism in sports, tweeting that “the NBA is engaged in a concerted effort to (1) insult their fans & (2) turn every game into a left-wing political lecture. That’s dumb.”
Players can express their views off the fields and courts, but game time should build a unity with team preferences and arm-chair-coaching should be the only friendly debate. In short, the NBA and the other sports are getting what they deserve for forgetting what their purpose is. They have taken their eye off the goal.
So. There “tis.