Ratings for Sunday’s NBA All-Star game hit a new low. Less than 6 million viewers watched the much-hyped game. I have written many times about the steep and steady decline in NBA viewership, even with ESPN fully pushing hard for the last few years you can see the longer downward trend that started after the 1998–99 NBA lockout. While some playoff games have had descent ratings during the decline the trend is still, fewer people are paying attention.
The lockout was a very public money fight at the end of the booming 1990’s between mega millionaires and millionaires. You can clearly see the huge decline from before the dispute till now. The Woke league has further accelerated the decline. American sports fans are slow to forget. It took years for baseball to recover from its early 1990’s strike. It was the “roid” homerun race that brought people back.
Last season in response to terrible playoff ratings NBA commissioner, Adam Silver said the league would pivot away from politics to help improve ratings. This hasn’t happened and things have gone from bad to worse. Sunday viewership was 71% below the pre-lockout audience of 1998.
Can the NBA recover? The only way I see things changing is when the rating freefall leads to lower revenue and the average players begin to revolt. Team owners would have to replace Silver as the commissioner with someone that is going to clean out the political messaging that Silver has spread inside NBA arenas.
The players have the league over a barrel. Its biggest star LeBron James is so “woke” that the average American can’t stand him and most basketball fans can’t stand him off the court. Silver does everything he can to link the NBA with the “progressive causes” while fans just want to watch a basketball game. The NBA has gone from a sports association went to political outlet.
Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson rarely entered the political fray and ratings were huge compared to the last decade. LeBron James hasn’t changed his messaging between now and last season? He was the face of the finals last season and he could not draw the viewers.
Why is the NBA that out of step with the average basketball fan? Progressive politics, support of BLM/Antifa riots, a cozy relationship with the oppressive Chinese government and non-stop politicization of the game aren’t the things that average America wants in their life. It’s hard to get victim sympathy when you are a millionaire.
I’m not completely down on James. The only real heat that he is taking is refusing to promote the Covid vaccine. This might be the only brave thing he has done.