An NBCUniversal executive has disclosed that several brands have threatened to pull their advertisements from her network if it continues to cover NFL football players' protests during the national anthem.
On Nov. 3, Linda Yaccarino, the chair of NBCUniversal's advertising sales and client partnerships, revealed during a panel event in New York that several of her network's advertisers had voiced displeasure over coverage of NFL protests, AdWeek reports.
Yaccarino said that a "list of advertisers have made themselves very clear: if you continue covering the political coverage of the issue, we will not be part of the NFL."
"Because think about it: they have half the country that is cheering about that, and they have half the country that is emailing them, saying, don't do that," Yaccarino added. "So that's a real thing."
In August 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to sit during the national anthem before NFL games to protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick's protest sparked national debate, with supporters viewing his protest as a peaceful demonstration against racial inequality and critics asserting that snubbing the anthem was disrespectful to U.S. military service members.
On Sept. 22, the controversy over the protests came roaring back to life when President Donald Trump called for football players who knelt during the anthem to be fired, The Guardian reports.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say: 'Get that son of a b***h off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!'" Trump said during a campaign rally in Alabama.
On Nov. 1, Papa John's CEO John Schnatter attributed his company's disappointing sales in the third quarter of 2017 to the NFL protests, asserting that the controversy was diminishing the pizza chain's advertising.
"The NFL hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players' and owners' satisfaction," Schnatter said during a conference call, according to Bloomberg. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders."
On Nov. 2, CBS Corp. Leslie Moonves rejected Schnatter's assertion, stating the NFL viewership remained strong.
"It's still the best thing on TV," Moonves said during a conference call, according to AdAge. "Ratings are still extraordinarily high."
Moonves added: "I don't think it's affecting advertising or their desire one iota."
Yaccarino agreed with Moonves' assessment that the protests did not impact advertisements, but asserted that ratings had dropped.
"The story has morphed dramatically, from social justice to patriotism," Yaccarino concluded. "While I don't think there's any way you could ever really prove it, I do think it has impacted the ratings."