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Evan Weiner: The NFL Has Plateaued

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The New England Patriots' NFL Super Bowl LI game ball is finished with the team's logo affixed to it at the Wilson Sporting Goods factory Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in Ada, Ohio. Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

The preliminary television numbers for the Super Bowl were terrific, the top-rated show, and probably will be the top-rated show in 2017 but there are some small clouds overhead. The show’s ratings were slightly down and a Saturday awards show lost 36 percent of the TV audience it had in 2016.

Football interest has plateaued. Head injuries and bad business decisions have resulted in the NFL’s TV numbers plunging and it has much to do with the owners’ total disregard for former players and their fans in virtually every city in the league.

It is something that Commissioner Pete Rozelle began to wonder about in the early 1980s. Luxury boxes, Rozelle said, were the bane of his existence. But in Rozelle’s world between 1960 and 1987 as NFL commissioner very few stadiums had luxury boxes and many football teams were playing in baseball stadiums with some bad seats in those buildings.

The NFL has witnessed a lot of franchise shifts since 1984. Owners finding new buildings with lots of revenue producing gadgets. The owners kicked out loyal blue collar fans and replaced them with customers with ability to spend money. That’s why Oakland will probably lose its NFL franchise soon. San Diego and Oakland, though both facilities in those cities received massive upgrades, offered local owners unwanted multi-purpose stadiums that were built in the 1960s. The talk of Oakland and San Diego moving went on for  years.

The same thing happened in St. Louis when a 1990s-era football friendly stadium was deemed inadequate. St. Louis ownership left for Los Angeles in January 2016. Dean Spanos moved his team from San Diego to the LA market. Mark Davis’s Oakland Raiders franchise is looking for a home and handouts. Greed is driving down the interest in the NFL.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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