We Can’t All Boycott

We Can’t All Boycott

Protesting Stops Working When Everyone Does the Same Thing for Different Reasons

For most people, the only real power they have in this world is based on what they consume. Everyone wants to sell you shit and, to an extent, they’ll cater to your needs to keep you buying. This is why the most potent – and often, the most successful – form of protest is boycotting. When people decide, en masse, to stop supporting a company or brand with their money, things change. CEOs tend to pay more attention to the qualms people have with their product or endorsements when this happens. Occasionally, it affects actual shifts in policy and the approaches corporations take with their brand.

Look at Fox News’ ousting of Bill O’Reilly from earlier this year. This was largely the result of a systematic boycott of Oreilly’s program’s sponsors, spearheaded by a group known as the Sleeping Giants who felt that the many allegations of sexual harassment surrounding the man made him an unfit television presenter. This shows that, while an individual turning their back on an established brand doesn’t mean much, organised boycotting tends to have an impact on that brand’s value and image. It pushes a company to make a decision that aligns with their consumers’ ideals, if only for their own financial interests.

Which brings us to our current predicament: President Donald Jingleheimer-Schmidt Trump has spoken out against NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustices in America. The words “son of a bitch” were used. In response to this, several more players knelt in solidarity to show their displeasure with Trump’s statement. So then, naturally, Trump called for a boycott of the NFL. And finally, prolific rapper and vocal civil rights activist J. Cole also called for a boycott of the NFL, but for completely different reasons. And here we are.

Long story short, people may soon begin boycotting the NFL in droves. The only problem is, the NFL will have no clue of which people are boycotting and for what reason. I should add, at the outset of this issue, that a decline in viewership and ticket sales significant enough to warrant any change in NFL policy (or that of their sponsors) is pretty unlikely. Not to mention, as popular as J. Cole is – being that his tweet actually received more likes than Trump’s – it’s unlikely that his words would have as much widespread exposure and influence as those of the President of the United States. Indeed, there’s a pretty good chance that most of the hypothetical boycotting would be on behalf of Trump supporters.

But let’s just say it were to happen. What if, over the coming weeks, at-home viewership tanked and stadiums went partially unfilled? What would be an appropriate response by those charged with correcting the NFL’s image? Cole’s reason for a boycott is largely based on Colin Kaepernick’s mistreatment at the hands of the NFL, as he hasn’t been drafted by another team since starting the trend of kneeling to protest last year. “Hire 3rd party investigator approved by NFLPA to determine if kap was denied a job unfairly as punishment for his stance” he writes, suggesting that the best way to ameliorate the situation is fair compensation to Kaepernick and an assurance that other protesters won’t suffer the same fate.

As you might imagine, the logic behind Trump’s boycott swings in the diametrically opposite direction. His solution is to “fire or suspend” players who kneel during the national anthem, going so far as to say that the reason so many would people stay away from NFL games is because “they love our country”. It’s a firmly divisive statement, one that re-emphasises much of the “us versus them” mentality that has so messily fractured the U.S. as of late. What makes it even messier is how complicated that stance becomes when lumped in with people who might also stay away from the games and also love their country, but for reasons opposed to those of Trump’s supporters.

“So, fuck it then, right?”

It must be a deeply ambiguous situation to find yourself in if you’re a person who might boycott as a means of protest. People on both sides of the issue vowing to perform the same action, regardless of their motivations, will wind up inadvertently boosting each other’s message. It’s the equivalent of a child being sent to their room until they’re ready to behave and then just locking themselves in and refusing to come out. No one wins because, despite the varying perspectives, the same thing ends up happening.

This leaves the NFL in a might tricky situation. Were they, or their many sponsors, moved to appease the people boycotting their games, how might they go about doing so? It’s impossible to determine the ideals of people who absent themselves, and attempting to tally how many people exist on either side of that divide and make a choice accordingly is a fool’s errand.

Either way, a significant portion of protesters are gonna wind up more pissed off, and that might – however unlikely it seems – result in a permanent loss of that consumer. This means anyone looking to actually have an impact by boycotting the NFL, at least on this issue, is shit outta luck. The most likely scenario is that, even in the face of a sudden loss of revenue, sponsors of the NFL and its managerial team will take the hit and change nothing. Better to briefly alienate fans through inaction than totally piss off a whole demographic by making a decisive move.

What’s the solution? I dunno. Like J. Cole says, “I know there are people smarter than me with better answers.” In any case, this is one of those rare instances where – even though partisanship has made the split between these warring perspectives all too clear – everyone’s true incentive is muddied up by taking the exact same action. Everyone, for once, is pulling together in the same direction, but no one can agree on what’s gonna happen when we get to where we’re going.

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