A wild card in all of the controversy surrounding the NFL players deciding to protest during the playing of the national anthem is the television networks. The major networks broadcasting NFL games, and the one game being played in London have decided to protect their interests by showing little if any of the players kneeling or otherwise posturing during the national anthem.

TV networks can manipulate the images we see

While most of the talk has been about what NFL team owners, players, fans, and the league as a whole were going to do this weekend, the power of the broadcast networks was somewhat ignored.

The television/advertising paradigm says that the only reason that games or any other shows are shown to the public on networks like CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN etc. is purely the result of what those networks can charge advertisers of national brands for commercials during those broadcasts. Lost in most of the controversy about who will do what this week in the moments before NFL games is the editorial control that the Tv Networks have over what images they show during their broadcasts and the topics that their announcers talk about.

Network broadcasters have always been beholden to major advertisers

Advertisers of major brands that are staples of NFL broadcasts, you can bet, have been analyzing the possible impact that media coverage of player protests may have on their brands.

The corporate entities that own these brands want to be aligned with the positive image that NFL games present to their audience. The traditional TV audience has been declining for years. This means that the advertising dollars the major networks earn have been declining as well. However, the NFL games still provide a huge audience across a broad demographic swath.

This is not lost on the networks, who would loathe having yet more advertising dollars go away to other vehicles in an environment where that is already the trend. The net balance is, that if advertisers think that the audience they are trying to reach is no longer perceiving the NFL as positive, due to player protests during the national anthem or otherwise, they will pull their advertising dollars elsewhere.

In the player protest controversy, the networks were the counterbalance

The simple answer for the networks is to calm advertiser fears by downplaying the various forms of protest -- by not showing them, or at least, minimizing them. In short, follow the money trail. If the networks can prevent losing millions of dollars by simply not emphasizing what most fans feel is negative, then why not? They successfully executed that plan today.