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Protests, pandemic in focus as NFL season begins

The NFL season is underway and Yahoo Finance's On the Move panel discusses the biggest challenges for the league in the 2020-2021.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Back here in the United States, the NFL season opener started last night. We had the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texas-- Houston Texans, rather, and it was the Chiefs who beat the Texans 34 to 20. There was a show of unity with players from both sides interlocking arms with the coaches, but there was also some booing. Dan Roberts, what do you make of all of this?

DAN ROBERTS: Well, look, Adam, I mean, you've got a perfect storm of so many different elements, right? I mean, there's the social justice part of this, and the NFL sort of followed suit with the NBA with allowing players to choose between a number of preselected phrases on their helmets. Although, it's certainly less of a move than the NBA took.

And then, as you mentioned, there was the show of unity. You'll notice strategically, perhaps, that the anthem had been prerecorded, maybe that's for COVID reasons, but it was just a video shown, so players weren't on the field for that. But there is all of that happening. There's the politics and the social justice protests and Black Lives Matter.

Then there's the pandemic and the various precautions that the NFL is taking and then some critics would say isn't taking. I mean, there were 16,000 fans last night in person at Arrowhead Stadium. Of course, they were very distanced, they wore masks, you know, you saw that even the coaches had masks, Andy Reid had a face shield that kept fogging up terribly.

But, you know, the NFL is taking certain precautions. Of course, there are people who don't think they should be playing. The question is will they get through the season? I think the question was never would the season start, it's will it finish? And then I would add a third theme happening that maybe isn't being as widely discussed as it would be if we weren't in a pandemic year, and that is the huge rash of gambling partnerships that are happening.

The NFL has made a number of partnerships with sports betting sponsors, casino sponsors. It's allowing individual teams this season for the first time ever to make individual partnerships with casino sponsors. And if the teams are in states that have legalized sports betting, they can even build out betting lounges in their stadiums, although, because of the pandemic, you won't see anyone there in person.

I think that's another really interesting track to follow that will become a much bigger story after this season. And by the way, a first season ever with an NFL franchise in Las Vegas with the Las Vegas Raiders.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Dan, I'm curious about ratings, I imagine they're going to be huge as people are really desperate for live sports. Do you expect-- are we seeing anything in this as far as ratings, and will they be sustained throughout the season, given the fact a lot of us are stuck at home?

DAN ROBERTS: So I think ratings will be very good. I don't know how much better they'll be than a normal year because, based on a number of [? stories ?] from different places, there's actually less excitement around the season. Now, maybe that'll get better, I'm sure that's due to the pandemic. We've got a lot much more going on right now than the NFL season.

Some people are also theorizing that, kind of, excitement and the oomph going in was lower because there was no preseason. I don't really buy that. I don't think people care much about the preseason anyway. I think it's obvious that there's just so many distractions right now. But the ratings have been stellar for the NBA. The NBA has kind of done everything right with the bubble and the NBA playoffs.

I think the NFL will be just fine. Better to have ratings and have games going on than not have them. And of course, as I've mentioned at length in the last few months, the NFL was the league best suited to play its games, even if it has no fans in the stadiums because the broadcast revenues is the most important part.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Well, oomph, there it is. I hope MC Hammer will forgive me. Dan Roberts, thank you very much.