COVID-19's Damaging Effect on Sports Fandom

2020

Sports fandom has been irreparably changed this year and it’s not just about declining television ratings. What can we learn from the NBA as a sample case?

The NBA Finals drew its lowest viewership in decades. Despite the Finals featuring the league’s biggest star in LeBron James and its most iconic franchise in the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA Finals ratings dropped 51 percent from last year. Predictably, given the supercharged political environment of 2020, many explanations had an ideological basis. The NBA alienated fans by becoming “too woke.” Or, the explanation is anything other than a fan response to the players advocating for social justice. The truth is mixed and more complex.

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