Jacksonville Jaguars

Are anthem protests really to blame for Jaguars empty seats?

Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire


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When the smallest crowd to see a regular season Jaguars home game in the last eight years showed up (or didn’t show up) Sunday, theories abounded as to why?

First, let’s get to the facts. As this item on the Florida Times-Union website pointed out Monday, Sunday’s loss to the Rams was the smallest crowd (56,232) to see a Jaguars home game since 2009. And, as the article states, there are many factors that should be considered and likely contributed.

Without a doubt, Jacksonville has been terrible and has beaten down their fan base over the course of the last 7-8 seasons. This is going to drain your season ticket core and diminish the number of people who want to “walk up” in a gameday decision to go to a Jaguars game.

Also without a doubt, despite their quick turnaround, the L.A. Rams are absolutely not a draw in North Florida. If the opponent had been a noteworthy team: the Cowboys, the Patriots, the Steelers, the Packers (who visited last year), etc. then the bigger “names” would have enticed many more fans who aren’t Jags fans.

But, the obvious point is that protests of the National Anthem across the NFL and by the Jaguars have to be having an effect.

NFL combined television ratings are down 7.5% through six weeks from last season, but even scarier for the league, almost 15% over the first six weeks in 2015.  That’s a sobering downward trend for the league offices in New York. And, no spin from anyone anywhere can counterpoint that some fans have stopped watching and going to games, because of the perceived insult to the flag and the military.

It’s real. And it’s a problem.

It’s so much of a problem that on Tuesday afternoon, it came to light that Jaguars President Mark Lamping and V.P. of Football Tom Coughlin, had met with Bill Spann, director of Jacksonville’s Military Affairs and Veterans, and several other active and retired military leaders in the area on October 5th at the team facility.

The reason that it came to light is that Spann sent an email copy of an October 6th follow up letter sent by Lamping to Spann, to the Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. Then, the local media got wind of the letter and because the mayor is a public official, requested a copy.

Lamping and the organization’s follow up was an attempt to quell the outrage after Jags players knelt for the U.S. National Anthem and then stood for the British anthem “God Save the Queen” during their September 24th London game.

And to their credit, the Jaguars had not publicized the meeting to “score points” with the public and specifically, the active and retired military in the area. They intended for it to stay private. But, the letter did come out and in it, the team did not apologize to the fans and specifically, the military. It rather stated they were “remiss” in understanding how kneeling for the U.S. anthem, but standing for a foreign one, would be taken by the military.

Well, now that the letter and the contents are out, there are numerous retired or active military, who did speak out to the local media Tuesday. Most did so negatively, but some also are defending the Jaguars efforts and the NFL’s for that matter.

And as you probably know by now, the NFL, the NFLPA and numerous players met Tuesday afternoon in New York to discuss the protests and moving beyond it in upcoming weeks. It’s also interesting that Jags owner Shad Khan was part of the ownership representation at the discussions that included Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Giants owner John Mara among others.

Commissioner Roger Goodell told the media after the meetings that the league is not looking to alter its policy and make players stand for the anthem saying, “we didn’t ask for it. We spent today talking about he issues players are trying to bring attention to, issues in our communities, to make our communities better.”

It remains to be seen if the owners and the commissioner will change their mind and the “must stand” language to the policy or not.

Finally, back to the Jaguars and their attendance.

Their play is clearly better to start this season, and if they continue that good start with a win in Indianapolis, they will be 4-3 headed to their bye week.

Then, they will host the Bengals and the Chargers in back to back weeks. Again, as we mentioned above, those aren’t big draws either, but if there are smaller crowds still for those games?

Then, the anthem controversy and the anger of fans and specifically, the active and former military gains more credibilty.

For now, all the team can do is win games. A lot of games. That always cures most everything.

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