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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Insider criticizes NFL’s plan to schedule games on Christmas Day

Apr 2, 2024 at 2:00 PM--

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The NFL's practice of scheduling games on Thursday nights, thus shortening the preparation time for participating teams, has drawn criticism. With games already set for Sundays and Mondays, and occasional Saturday matchups added towards the season's end, the league now appears poised to expand its schedule to include other days—at least for the 2024 season.

This year, the NFL plans to hold two games on Christmas Day, which falls on a Wednesday. It marks the fifth consecutive year of games on Christmas Day, following last year's Monday Christmas matchups, which didn't significantly disrupt the routine given teams' familiarity with Monday games. The last time Christmas fell outside of Thursday through Monday was in 2019, and the NFL didn't schedule any holiday matchups that season.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated revealed that the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) was blindsided by the league's decision to host Christmas Day games this year. The decision left the insider heavily critical of the midweek scheduling.

"The Christmas Day thing is a pretty unnecessary display of greed by the league and its owners," Breer wrote in a recent column. "To make four teams, and I'm going to assume the NFL will intend to have contenders in those broadcast windows, in a spot to play three games in just 11 days on the doorstep of the playoffs only makes sense in one way, and we all know what way that is."

It's evident that financial motives drove the decision. It's unclear what the NFL will do to ensure player safety for the four teams participating in the Wednesday games.

"When we saw the viewership from this past year, really our fans spoke. We certainly saw and believe that they are very much enjoying and wanting NFL football on Christmas," Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president of media distribution, explained last week at the NFL owners meetings.

In December, Schroeder assured Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal that the NFL would avoid scheduling games on Christmas if the holiday fell on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Last season, the San Francisco 49ers were among the teams that were forced to play on Christmas Day. Not only that, but they played on Thanksgiving too. With San Francisco expected to be a contender this year, too, it's plausible that they could be tapped to play on another holiday.

The 49ers' Christmas evening matchup against the Baltimore Ravens last season drew an average of 27.6 million viewers, contributing to an overall average viewership of 28.7 million across all three holiday games.
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