With more than 30 years in the business, sports broadcaster Dan Patrick seemingly has seen it all. But even Patrick admits that watching how the domestic violence and child abuse crises that have enveloped the entire NFL is a surreal feeling.
“I think it was there before, I just don’t know how much attention we were attaching to those issues,” Patrick told TheWrap.
The radio personality and Emmy-winning host for NBC Sports sees a silver lining in the midst of a swirling public relations storm, the likes of which the NFL hadn’t seen before. Patrick, speaking to TheWrap on Thursday — a day before Commissioner Roger Goodell’s news conference — said the proliferation of these important issues into the public consciousness is a good thing.
“In what other forum can you talk about homosexuality, race, religion, child abuse, domestic abuse?” he said. “And we’re doing that in sports. So I look at it as a positive. That it’s something that’s being discussed moving forward, and people want answers.”
If the various scandals facing the league, such as the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson incidents, took place in a different era, it’s easy to fathom that public outcry and outrage wouldn’t be as loud. But the omnipresence of social media — and the amplified voice it gives to those who use it — means multiplied reactions permeating the narrative and becoming a story within a story. One that the NFL, try as it might, simply cannot control.
“Social media’s been very, very strong on this, and I applaud them for putting pressure,” said Patrick, who will host the upcoming “Sports Jeopardy!” show. “That’s the reason why the commissioner changed Ray Rice’s punishment, the Vikings changed Adrian Peterson’s punishment and Carolina changed Greg Hardy’s punishment. Because the tail wags the dog.”
According to a new NBC News/Marist poll, 86 percent of NFL fans say the recent domestic violence news hasn’t changed the amount of professional football they watch. That statistic affirms Patrick’s stance that as long as games are played, the scandals will take a backseat in the minds of many fans who just want to cheer on their favorite teams and players.
“The NFL will rebound because we have games,” he said. “Until we look at football itself as inferior, or not what it used to be, then maybe you’ll have a bigger problem with the NFL. These are individual hits that are taken by Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice or Greg Hardy or whoever the next guy might be, and the commissioner himself. But 1:00 East Coast time (on Sunday) — you’re watching.”
Just 11 percent of fans say they’re less likely to watch, per the NBC survey. No surprise there, because of how big the NFL has become in America.
Patrick said, “We’ve planned out our weeks, our year for football. Fantasy … you have guys who gamble. You tune in to see your favorite team or your favorite player.
“You put all those together, and people are still gonna do it. They’re not gonna stop anytime soon.”
In part two of TheWrap’s conversation with Patrick, which will be published Tuesday, the “Sports Jeopardy!” host discusses the upcoming show on Crackle.