Television ratings for the NFL are down a lot this year. There is new evidence that a boycott by fans due to protests by players during the national anthem is one reason why.
Rassmussen Reports polled 1,000 American adults this week and found 32 percent were less likely to watch an NFL game because of the protests. Thirteen percent were more likely to watch.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement in what he said was an effort to bring awareness of racial injustice in the wake of police shootings. He sat on the bench during the anthem in the preseason and later changed to taking a knee. Other players around the league have followed suit. Some players have stood but held their fist up. Some teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, have locked arms.
Since then, the hashtag #BoycottNFL has been trending. Many are upset, calling the protest disrespectful to the flag and veterans. A large number vowed to turn away from the NFL until players stand at attention for the anthem.
National anthem demonstrations in the NFL
The racial divide can be seen in the poll results. Thirty-six percent of whites said they were less likely to watch the NFL this year because of the protests compared to 18 percent of blacks. Twenty-nine percent of other minorities agreed.
Twenty-eight percent of blacks say they were more likely to tune in due to the protests compared to 8 percent of whites.
Breaking it down by gender, women were more likely than men to tune out because of the protests (35 percent to 29 percent). And more men were likely than women to tune in (18 percent to 8 percent), according to Rassmussen.
Some speculate increased interest in this year’s presidential campaign is also a factor. The first presidential debate, which had record high ratings, aired the same time as the Saints-Falcons Monday Night football game. The second debate will happen the same time as the Packers-Giants game this Sunday night. NBC is airing the football game instead of the debate.
Some are blaming games that end in a blowout as a factor. And the NFL's decision to now stream games for free on platforms such as Twitter are certainly having an effect.
Whatever the reason, the drop in national TV ratings is undeniable. Sports Media Watch broke down each daypart for the first four weeks of the season, and nearly every game saw a significant decrease in viewership.
Out of 26 total dayparts reviewed, only five saw an increase in ratings and six saw an increase in actual viewership compared to the same time in the 2015 season.
-- The rating for the Thursday night kickoff game between the Panthers and Broncos – a Super Bowl 50 rematch – fell 10 percent from last year’s kickoff game. The 25.2 million people who watched marked an eight percent decrease.
-- The rating for the Week 1 Monday Night Football game between the 49ers and Rams, which included Colin Kaepernick, dropped 30 percent and viewership was down 28 percent for that time slot. That game was the second part of a doubleheader. The first game saw only a 4 percent drop in viewership.
-- The aforementioned Saints-Falcons game opposite the debate (Monday Night Football Week 3) fell 41 percent in ratings and 40 percent in viewership. Only eight million watched that game vs. 80 million who tuned into the debate.
-- The Seahawks vs. Jets game this past Sunday – seen by 43 percent of the country as the early game of a national doubleheader -- saw ratings fall 14 percent and viewership down 13 percent.
-- The only Thursday night game to see ratings and viewership rise was the Week 3 matchup between the Patriots and Texans – a 27-0 win for New England.
-- The Week 1 game between the Giants and Cowboys had the largest increase in viewers. It was a the second half of a national doubleheader seen by 90 percent of the country. Ratings were up 15 percent with viewership up 18 percent.
Stop using us as political topics, if you really cared for us you would fix the damn VA. I stand with #Veteransforkaepernick .— Andruexmeda's Blues (@AndruexmedaBlue) September 30, 2016