#Sports media mailbag: Kneeling players and the NFL ratings myth

#Sports media mailbag: Kneeling players and the NFL ratings myth

June 10, 2020 | 9:01am

You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers & columnists to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: sports media.

When the kneeling started in 2016, NFL ratings suffered a decline. They have rebounded since, but do you see another ratings dip coming, if players decide to kneel again? — @sc5145

This has always been an overrated and overstated cause and effect. When Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest police treatment of African-Americans, it was turned into a political debate over the flag, fueled by President Trump tweeting about the issue.

While it may have had a slight impact on some ratings, overall the numbers fall then and subsequent rise has been due to a number of factors that media writer Anthony Crupi, who studies this exact thing, has pointed to. There were an inordinate amount of bad games in 2016, Crupi’s studies showed, and an oversaturation of football combined with an explosion of cord-cutting.

This season, if the ratings are down and players are kneeling, some analysts will likely incorrectly point to a correlation.

Submit your sports media questions to be answered in an upcoming mailbag

Now, the ratings might go down because this heated election may take viewership away from sports. The pandemic’s implication for watching the NFL is another factor that could either add fans (people staying home more) or could turn off less passionate viewers (no crowds in the stands). So, to answer your question, the kneeling issue — especially now more recognized as a peaceful protest — I don’t think will have much of an impact, no matter how some may try to interpret it.

Do you see a scenario in the next few years Mike Breen and Ian Eagle just working national broadcast games only? — @NYCKING

I doubt it. Breen with the Knicks and Eagle with the Nets are in the midst of legendary runs that fall in line with Marv Albert previously with the Knicks, as well as people like Mel Allen with the Yankees and Bob Murphy with the Mets. They are a part of the soundtrack, so it will seemingly be up to them if they want to do less.

Ian EagleAP

Who is taking over for Marv at TNT as lead broadcaster when he retires? Will it be Kevin Harlan, Brian Anderson or Eagle? — @spanee77

First, Albert has repeatedly said he has no plans to retire at this point. He turns 79 this week and I have written that I would have planned a celebration of his career during this season and then have him come back in the next year of his contract and do some games, but not the conference finals.

Eagle is clearly the best NBA play-by-player of the trio. He and Stan Van Gundy were TNT’s top team so far this season. Over and over, Eagle makes his partners better. Harlan is next in line and, if it ended up being him, it would make some sense. Harlan is better on the 30-second clips that end up on Twitter than he is during a full game, but there is a strong association with the league and his style does have a following. Meanwhile, Anderson is a very solid play-by-player, but it is hard to see picking him over Eagle or Harlan.

With a majority of their everyday lineup all white males, why is there such a lack of diversity at WFAN? — @elvy_landa

WFAN is aware of the issue and I do think they will try to address it. When they first replaced Mike Francesa, they brought in a diverse group with Bart Scott and Maggie Gray joining Chris Carlin. Entercom, FAN’s parent company, infamously pulled the plug on the trio after one ratings book. FAN did not treat Scott well, but it did try to keep him before he left for ESPN NY.

The one thing about sports radio is that, in general, especially for successful stations, the hosts don’t change that much. In the afternoon, Francesa and Chris Russo were fixtures for decades. In mornings, first Imus and next Boomer Esiason with Craig Carton and now Gregg Giannotti have been unchanged. In middays, since Dave Sims and separately Suzyn Waldman way back when, it has been two white male hosts until now with Gray teaming with Marc Malusis.


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