The Gist: The majority of close NFL followers are not aware of the league’s new Use of Helmet rule that could—and likely will—dramatically change the game this season.
Did you know the NFL has a new helmet rule? If you did, do you know all the rule entails? To be transparent, I had to figure it out for myself to write this. But, it’s kind of complicated.
The gist is: The NFL made a new rule in late May that will severely limit what players can do with their helmet, all for the purpose of improving player safety.
On the NFL’s site, the new rule reads:
“It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.”
Sounds pretty broad, right? Being in Pittsburgh, and thinking about what happened to Ryan Shazier, it seems the NFL is aiming to discourage this sort of play. But this will likely affect more than obvious hits.
So, how’s top-level awareness of the change?
You’ll see that the majority of Americans are not familiar with the new rule—a whopping 75%. But if they watch the NFL at all, or plan to this season, they will notice changes, especially if it is strictly enforced. This rule’s intent is to leave little room for ambiguity in terms of making a call of what is against the rule or not. Use the helmet in any way, regardless of intent, and it will be classified as unnecessary roughness, which carries a 15-yard penalty.
Furthermore, the NFL has guidelines for instances that would lead to a player being ejected from the game:
— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) May 22, 2018
Looking at NFL viewership compared to helmet rule awareness:
Sure, 25% of close-watchers agree with the new rule, and 13% do not. But that’s not what jumped out to me: 63% of close NFL followers are not familiar with the new rule. The new rule that will drastically change the way the game is played and enforced. Over half of those close NFL followers could be stunned. Not to mention, it will be a hard rule to enforce, inevitably leading to fans mad over official’s calls, or how long they take to make them.
The sentiment, at least online, or on the Twittersphere (just look at the thread) is that this move will make the game even more unwatchable.
It will be interesting to see how the NFL’s following changes from this rule.
So, here’s following as of right now since 2015.
We already know the NFL has a young person problem and has been declining in viewership starting last year, but it appears it continues to as of Q3 with the overall US population.
I have to wonder, does noise surrounding anthem protests have NFL viewers tuned out? Or did they miss the rule change amidst everything else in the news?
We will continue to track this once the season starts and this new rule is enforced to see if fandom is further impacted. Just how it will impact the game, the viewing experience, and overall favorability, not to mention player safety, will be crucial to monitor over time.