October 11, 2017

Pence’s walkout over take-a-knee protest comes as NFL struggles with ratings, fan outrage

The last thing the NFL needed as it struggles with declining ratings, falling ticket prices and fan outrage was a major take-a-knee dust-up Sunday involving Vice President Mike Pence, but that’s what the league got.

Mr. Pence walked out of the Indianapolis Colts game after 23 players for the visiting San Francisco 49ers knelt in protest on the sideline during the national anthem at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The vice president later came under fire from 49ers safety Eric Reid, who called the early exit a “PR stunt” and example of “systemic oppression.”

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“He knew our team has had the most players protest,” Mr. Reid told reporters. “He knew we were probably going to do it again. And so this is what systemic oppression looks like—a man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts.”

The episode, which blew up on what should have been a feel-good day for the NFL with the retirement of former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning’s #18 jersey, virtually guaranteed that the protests will continue to dominate the narrative for at least another week—and inflame fans already voting with their feet.

An analysis released Friday by CNBC found that ticket prices during the first three games of the 2017 season enjoyed a 20-40 percent increase over last year, but then went up by just 5 percent in Week 4 and actually dropped by 2 percent in Week 5.