The National Football League has enjoyed a long streak of dominance on American television but that may be in jeopardy. This Sunday the NFL’s greatest fear became reality. Fans turned off the television. The source of the tune-out: NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem. After Sunday’s display of protest, it appears that viewership is in decline.
In the primetime match-up, the Washington Redskins beat the Oakland Raiders 27-10. The big news, however, was the beating which the NFL took in the ratings. According to sources the game pulled in an 11.6 / 20, a season worst for Sunday Night Football. The decline accounts for an 8% drop in viewership from Atlanta’s 34-23 win over the Green Bay Packers in last week’s game.
Of course, it’s only one game. But it’s a game which faced no competition for viewership, being the only one broadcast during the coveted Sunday evening time slot. Additionally, it followed a full day of political protesting against President Trump.
NBC itself speculated that the president’s tweets regarding the NFL and kneeling during the national anthem helped contribute to the dip in ratings. They claimed that the comprehensive news coverage which Trump’s outburst against the players received didn’t help Nielsen ratings, according to early market data.
A summer ESPN poll revealed more unwelcome news for the NFL. According to the poll, 26% of viewers are fed-up with political protests – and they’re voting with their remote controls.
It is possible that if viewership continues to decline, and advertising dollars evaporate, we may see teams once again standing for the national anthem as loss of salary becomes a greater threat.
If this happens, where does it all leave the original anthem protester, Colin Kaepernick? For better or worse, still on the sidelines.