(UPDATED with Colin Kaepernick response) The biggest TV event of the year is losing one of Hollywood’s most high-profile directors as a viewer.
Ava DuVernay tweeted that she will not be “a spectator, viewer or supporter” of Super Bowl LIII due to what she called the NFL’s “racist treatment” of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. She concluded her message by writing, “To watch the game is to compromise my beliefs. It’s not worth it,” closing with a reprise of hashtag #ImWithKap.
Nick Cannon tweeted his support soon after DuVernay took her stand. Common tweeted Saturday in support of #ImWithKap and The Chi creator Lena Waithe re-tweeted Kaepernick from Saturday showing famed activist Angela Davis wearing a jersey with his number seven and an #ImWithKap message. NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant also wore Kaepernick jerseys this weekend.
And later today, the former San Francisco 49er himself responded to DuVernay’s declaration:
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) February 3, 2019
Whether or not a boycott gains steam or can manage to make a dent in the 100 million-plus viewership that the NFL’s big game has seen in recent years is far from a given. CBS, which has sold out all ad inventory on the game, is banking on today being a $500 million revenue day company-wide. However, with Super Bowl ratings among the 18-49 demo falling to new lows of late and advertisers watching with careful eyes, the possibility of any eyeballs drifting away from the screen is not one any stakeholder enjoys contemplating.
For the NFL, whose TV ratings rebounded 5% this season, the tweets extend the long-running controversy over Kaepernick, who found himself shunned by the league in 2016 after kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against police violence. The discord bookends season that began with the quarterback breaking out in a Nike “Just Do It” ad in September that sparked divergent and passionate reaction.
DuVernay has long been allied with Kaepernick and the causes he has championed. She spearheaded a high-profile event last month called #HowWeHeal: Celebrating the National Day of Racial Healing. Speakers that day included Judd Apatow, Melissa Etheridge and DuVernay’s collaborator on Selma, actor David Oyelowo.
Kaepernick, 31, has a pending grievance against the NFL, alleging a conspiracy by owners over his social justice activism, which networks and league officials said played a role in two years of ratings declines in 2016 and 2017. Last year, an arbitrator rejected the NFL’s request to dismiss the grievance.