Count Mark Cuban among those who see the NFL becoming less and less popular in the future. And it has nothing to do with the national anthem protests by players that have pushed a handful of fans away.
Instead, the outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner pointed to the health and safety of the sport as the No. 1 reason for its decline. The national anthem protests, in Cuban’s mind, are more of a short-term issue.
Cuban referenced a study from this summer that found 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly called CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Dr. Ann McKee’s study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“The NFL has got real structural problems,” Cuban said during an interview on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday. “I have an 8-year-old son — I would not let my son play football. CTE’s a problem. … You can’t push something like CTE under the rug.”
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Cuban mentioned meeting with NCAA officials over the latest college basketball scandal, and the topic of football participation came up. Cuban said football participation is “down significantly” in all the SEC states.
“They’re going to have to go global,” Cuban said of football grooming players. “Half of NFL rosters (in the future) are going to be international guys. That’s a bigger issue for the NFL longer term, and I don’t know how to fix that.”
Cuban has criticized the NFL before, memorably saying: “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”
He stands by that statement regarding football’s future.
“They’re on path to be absolutely true,” Cuban said. “Because they haven’t been able to solve that (CTE) problem, they’re going to lose participants and they’re going to lose people watching. … I just don’t think kids are going to be as excited about football as we were growing up and that’s a long-term problem.”
Cuban also criticized the NFL for having too many games, particularly Thursday Night Football where the games have largely been underwhelming in recent years.
“People question the brand, question the quality of the brand,” Cuban said.
Even though the NFL faces well-documented challenges, Cuban made it clear that the NBA isn’t immune to them either.
Cuban acknowledged that it’s more difficult for every professional sports league to get kids excited and interested in their game and teams. That’s why he’s trying to lure more fans to American Airlines Center this season by offering more than 4,000 seats for $19 or less.
“We’ve got to be more aggressive in creating young Mavericks fans, young NBA fans,” Cuban said. “I see the NFL pricing themselves out of families, which is going to make it very, very hard for them to develop young fans. We all have that challenge of how do we turn young kids, boys and girls, into hardcore NBA and Mavericks fans? That’s going to be a huge challenge for all of us going forward.
“(We want it to be) where going to a Mavs game is competitive with going to a movie or going to a high school football game.”