Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kaepernick and Economics

As now pretty much everybody knows, the 49ers quarterback Kaepernick opted to sit during the playing of the U.S. national anthem on August 26th.  Some have viciously criticized him for that, others ardently supported him, some have even copied him.  I love that about a free country.  You don’t have to show respect for the symbols of the country, but then those that disagree with you may also call you a traitor and lots of other things.  Really, I think, that is terrific!  I guess you cannot burn the US flag, though: that one is a mystery to me, but never mind.

Now, I disagree with the actions of Kaepernick, but that really is not the point of this blog entry.  The point is a different implication of a free country.  Subject to the promises in his contract, his employer can fire him (eventually, probably --- I don’t want to get into the contract fine print here), not provide certain additional payments or actually reward him financially for his actions.  Now, why would the 49er owners do that?

That all depends on the fans.  Suppose that many fans are repulsed by the actions of Kaepernick, stop going to the games or buying the various memorabilia, or stop tuning in to the games on television.  That would mean a lot of lost revenue for the club.  And when actions of players hurt financially, the owners of the club presumably have lots of leeway of urging their players to get with the program.  That includes reducing payouts and threats of firing, i.e.  where it hurts most.  It certainly happens, if players play badly.  It therefore can happen just as well for actions players otherwise take inside or outside the field.  Some commentators would probably love to see nothing more than Kaepernick somehow being punished for his actions this way.

Conversely, of course, if players do well, owners might give them bonuses.  If they are contributing to the bottom line, they want to keep them!  You got to admit: the actions of Kaepernick provided lots of free publicity for the 49ers.  An old paradigm in marketing is that any free publicity is good publicity: if that is still true, then this one surely counts.  It may actually be that more fans are now coming, that more of them buy Kaepernick memorabilia, that more media attention is brought to the 49ers.  It may well be that owners will secretly praise Kaepernicks actions, all the way to the bank. 

In that case, they should pay Kaepernick a bonus, of course, perhaps a big one.  He might be free to donate that to “Black Lives Matters”, for example.  Or “Doctors Without Borders” or whatever other organization he pleases.  That would be up to him (he is rich already, I hope he is doing quite a bit of that already anyhow).  In any case, the contrarian in me would love to see that outcome: a bonus to Kaepernick for his anthem-defying stance.  Now, that would really get the conversation going.

Stay tuned.

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