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DirecTV Allows NFL Refunds After Anthem Controversy-

Satellite broadcaster will let at least some customers get refunds to its Sunday Ticket package of NFL games if they cite players’ national anthem protests.

Members of the Cleveland Browns kneeled during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday. PHOTO: MICHAEL CONROY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Wall Street Journal:


DirecTV is allowing at least some customers to cancel subscriptions to its Sunday Ticket package of NFL games and obtain refunds, if they cite players’ national anthem protests as the reason for discontinuing service, customer service representatives said Tuesday.
Under Sunday Ticket’s regular policy, refunds are not to be given once the season is underway. But the representatives said they are making exceptions this season—which began in September—because of the controversy over the protests, in which players kneel or link arms during the national anthem.
Spokesmen for DirecTV-parent AT&T Inc. and the National Football League declined to comment.
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 The shift is the latest twist in a controversy that has divided the nation after President Donald Trump blasted players who took a knee during the anthem and said they should be fired. He has called on people to walk out of stadiums when players are kneeling, and has continued to express his displeasure over the protests.
“For people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem, I think is disgraceful,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday.
Several teams have issued statements defending the rights of their players to express their opinion or have otherwise shown solidarity with them, as has the league.
Not only are the political stakes high but the business ones are too. Football draws the biggest TV audiences of American sports and is important to the bottom line of a host of major media companies. Sunday Ticket is one of the NFL’s premier franchises, earning it $1.5 billion a year in licensing revenue, and is a major customer draw for DirecTV.
The controversy comes as the league is trying to rebound in the ratings. Viewership was down last year and the trend is continuing. Network executives and league officials attributed last year’s declines in part to viewing competition from the presidential election, distaste with the pace and quality of games, and also the anthem protests.
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