"Listen, there isn’t anybody in that room, any of our organizations who don’t put our fans first," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the media Tuesday after the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix. His comment was in response to a question regarding the owners’ refusal to vote for late-season Thursday night flexing.
What Mr. Goodell fails to mention, however, is that he does not put his fans first – not the ones who attend his games, anyway. He would much rather screw over the fans who pay their hard earned money to attend a game. He digs his filthy, greedy talons into the backs of fans who save their money and take off work in advance to take their son or daughter to see their favorite team play live and in person.
Mr. Goodell puts his business partners first – not the fans, nor the players. In this case, he is putting Amazon first. Amazon Prime, of course, is the subscription service that crawled into the NFL’s bed last year in order to stream Thursday night games. According to CNBC, Amazon is spending about $1 billion per year to stream games through 2033.
What did Amazon get in return for its first season? A slate of underwhelming games that failed to capture the attention of the casual football fan, resulting in a 41% decrease in viewership from the previous year. Mr. Goodell’s answer to mitigate this problem? Thursday night flex scheduling.
Never mind the fact that the oversaturation of NFL games, coupled with short rest and preparation for players, has resulted in bogged-down, sloppy football on Thursdays since its conception in 2006. The NFL even decided to schedule division rivalries for Thursday nights such as Chargers-Chiefs and Giants-Eagles over the years to increase its audience.
"It’s a very important thing for us to balance with the what I would call season-ticket holders and the in-stadium markets," Goodell said. "But we have millions of fans who also watch on television, so reaching them is a balance that you always strike and making sure we do it right." Okay, so maybe flexing Bengals-Bills or Niners-Cowboys to Thursday night will assist with some viewership and subscription numbers for Amazon instead of showing Titans-Texans or Commies-Falcons, but wouldn’t we be watching these games on Sunday or Monday anyway? Mr. Goodell is acting like these big-time matchups will be buried on a Sunday and nobody will be able to watch them. Chances are a big game like Bengals-Bills will be scheduled and/or flexed to prime time during the late afternoon Sunday slot or Sunday Night Football. We don’t need it to be played on Thursday – but Mr. Goodell does. He needs it to be played on Thursday so that fans can continue to dole out money to subscribe to Amazon Prime.
This brings me back to my original point – the fans who attend games will get screwed with Thursday flex scheduling. Imagine buying tickets for your son or daughter to see his or her favorite team during a playoff push in December. Now imagine the look on their face when you tell them they can no longer attend because the game was moved from Sunday to Thursday and you can’t afford to take off work. All for the almighty dollar.
Screwing over the fans who attend games isn’t new. Teams continue to raise ticket and parking prices every year, the NFL takes home games away from a select number of teams and ships them to London, and the league already signed off on Monday night flex scheduling for 2023.
Oh, and then there is the league’s interest in neutral-site AFC and NFC Championship games. Again, screw over the fans who want to buy tickets to see their team play in what could be a once-in-a-lifetime game. The NFL doesn’t care – they know we’ll still watch, even if we are continuously bending over and grabbing our ankles.
We can only hope that our team owners have their fans’ backs and continue to shut down these proposals. If Roger Goodell gets his way, his business partners, like Amazon, will reap the benefits while the perks of being a fan continue to be stripped away.