“It’s definitely fair to say that owners are on edge about the current climate,” said one league source who was in contact with several ownership groups this week.
They will be watching the ratings very closely and there is a worry that a segment of NFL fans want these games to be an escape from the everything else that is happening in the world and politics, and that they’ll find something else to do on Sunday’s if that’s no longer the case.
No sponsors have pulled out yet, but there have been a lot of private conversations with them at the team level and the league level. Some sponsors have concerns about the ratings moving forward, and also about the idea that some fans are getting turned off by the protests. The owners have been put in a box here and they’re in a position where they’re going to get hammered by someone no matter what they do.
Additionally, the NFL is under heavy scrutiny right now from military and veteran’s groups, at the league and team level, with offices inundated with phone calls and emails voicing concerns over the anthem protests. And while owners are worried about Trump stirring up more fans to cast aside the NFL, the fan and sponsor reaction are of primary concern with league officials unsure about the response this weekend.