NFL Commissioner Calls Ratings Decline ‘Cyclical’ as He Ignores Fans Citing Anthem Protests

Kaepernick and Reid National Anthem

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell chalked up the league’s precipitous ratings decline to “cyclical” factors at a talk on Thursday.

Goodell says he aims to shorten games to reorient the focus from ads, replay review, and dead time toward the on-field action.

“We want to take as much what we call dead time, non-action out of the game, so that we can make the game more exciting,” Goodell explained at a New York Times-hosted conference on Thursday.

The NFL endures double-digit ratings drops this season. Despite a quality, competitive matchup between the Seahawks and the Bills, Monday night’s game scored a 7.8 rating. This drops it about four percent from last year’s Week Nine Bears-Chargers contest. In 28 primetime games this season, year-to-year ratings declines occurred in 27 of them. The Patriots blowout of the Texans remains the only Nielsen grower in primetime this season.

While Goodell cites “cyclical” factors beyond the league’s control, these headwinds did not hold down ratings for the Cubs-Indians World Series. And the league’s fans offer a more specific reason for the decline than the commissioner’s vague rationales.

Fans point to the Colin Kaepernick-led pregame protests of the national anthem as a major turnoff that motivates them to turn off. Fans cited the protests more than any other explanation in a Yahoo poll for why they stopped watching. A Seton Hall poll found a majority of fans naming the national anthem kneelers as a reason for clicking off NFL games.

In other words, while the commissioner sticks to his story of the three-hour length of games eroding viewership the viewers themselves cite the two-minutes before the game as the primary reason to click away.