LeBron James is the face of the NBA in more ways than one.
James is not only the league’s best player, but he is also the most high profile political activist.
But LeBron James’ anti-Trump protest just came back to bite the NBA in the worst way.
When the NBA came back from the coronavirus-induced hiatus last summer, ratings tanked as fans recoiled from the embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement.
No player more loudly embraced the league’s new political activism – which many fans saw as a direct protest of Donald Trump – than LeBron James.
Commissioner Adam Silver hoped fans would come back in the 2020-2021 season after the league removed the Black Lives Matter logo from the courts and players no longer wore social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys.
Those hopes proved to be foolhardy.
On Sunday, despite having LeBron James featured in the marquee 3:30PM game on ABC, the NBA still lost in the ratings to Phil Mickelson’s historic win at the PGA Championship.
The NBA numbers that I've seen from Sunday:
Lakers-Suns: 4.4 million viewers
Celtics-Nets: 3.8 million
Hawks-Knicks: 3 million
Grizzlies-Jazz: 2.7 million
Wizards-Sixers: 1.9 million
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) May 25, 2021
The NBA considers itself the number two major sport in America.
But ratings have been plummeting.
Games on ABC saw viewership drop by 45 percent in the last decade.
As sports get more political, they alienate more viewers.
Leagues are watching “get woke and go broke” play out in real time.
And no one seems to know where the bottom is in terms of fans fleeing.
Sports with Balls will keep you up-to-date on any new developments in this ongoing story.