In the wake of the national anthem protests in the NFL, which ramped up considerably over the weekend, DirecTV is reportedly allowing some disgruntled football fans to cancel their Sunday Ticket packages with refunds.
That’s according to the Wall Street Journal, which claimed to have gotten confirmation of that change in policy, albeit with some possible restrictions, from customer service representatives Tuesday. DirecTV normally does not offer refunds to customers who cancel Sunday Ticket, which allows them to watch out-of-market NFL games, after the regular season begins, although a customer service representative told The Washington Post that the company extended that deadline to Sept. 24 for reasons unrelated to the anthem protests.
A spokesman for the NFL declined to offer The Post comment on the issue. DirecTV customer service representatives contacted by The Post were unable to confirm that the company was providing refunds, but the Journal cited a man who said that, on Monday, he was able to get back the approximately $280 he spent.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d get a refund,” Mark Hoffman, a former business editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, told the Journal. “I know their guidelines; I just wanted to make a point.”
The protests, which have included players kneeling during the anthem or raising a fist, began in small numbers at the start of the season earlier this month. However, many in the NFL were offended by President Trump’s comments at a rally last week, in which he used the phrase “son of a bitch” while asserting that players who protest should be fired.
Trump kept up the sharp criticism on Twitter, saying on that platform, “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
In response, entire teams staged protests, including three that stayed in their locker rooms during the anthem. Other teams chose to stand with arms linked, shows of unity that, in some cases, included team owners.
Many owners issued statements objecting to Trump’s comments. While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was not among them, he took part in a demonstration before the nationally televised Monday night game. Jones, Dallas’s coaches and all the players linked arms and took a knee together just before the anthem, then rose and stood with arms linked as the song was performed.
Before Sunday’s games, Trump had suggested that “you will see change take place fast” in the NFL if “fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country.” While the contests were underway, he retweeted a post in which another Twitter user threatened a boycott of the league over the anthem issue.
Asked by reporters Sunday if he wanted his supporters to boycott NFL games, Trump replied, “No, no, no — I don’t. They can do whatever they want.”
However, the anthem protests, which were begun last season by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have proved to be tremendously unpopular with some fans. In fact, many believe that is the reason Kaepernick, who became a free agent in March, has been unable to latch on with an NFL team.
The Nielsen company reported Tuesday that viewership is down 11 percent this season, compared to the same period in 2016. Another indication of possible fan discontent came earlier this month, when a nationwide poll conducted in part by The Post revealed that, of the 19 percent who said their interest in the NFL had decreased over the past few years, 17 percent said it had to do with the protests and/or Kaepernick.
Another Sunday Ticket subscriber said to the Journal of his decision to call DirecTV to cancel, “I explained to them I was tired of politics in sports, and it’s not how I want to spend my Sunday, watching all that transpire.” He added that the representative with whom he spoke representative “insinuated there was a high volume of calls calling into cancel.”