NFL Viewership Never Recovered in the Era of the Colin Kaepernick Protest

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The NFL’s TV ratings have fallen in nearly every demographic, and across all regions thus far for the 2016/2017 season, a report finds. The ratings crash coincides with a season of Black Lives Matter protests against the United States during the playing of the national anthem, made ubiquitous by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Even the recent wild-card playoff games didn’t give the league its typical ratings boost, according to Awful Announcing.

Nielsen ratings have dropped an average of 8 percent across all four broadcast networks over the ratings from 2015. Ratings continued to drop even as winter set in when fans typically give more time to football. Worse, the tumble is double the declines from the 2013 to the 2014 seasons.

One of those attempting to explain the ratings crash point to our particularly hot presidential election season as a reason fans didn’t tune in to football. But the Awful Announcing review notes that the ratings drop is still worse than that of other recent election years.

“2016 was down 5% versus 2012,” the site noted. “The season was also down from the peak 2013 by 10% among all viewers, including a whopping 20% among that trouble demo of Adults 18-34.”

The review also found that ratings generally went down in racial and gender demographics, but the most disastrous demo tumble for the league is that of men, and especially white men.

“[T]he alarms truly sounded for the NFL and its business partners because of their remarkably sharp declines with men,” the site says. “Among all male viewers, the league lost 9% versus a year ago with the average broadcast being watched by 11.07 million men versus 12.21 million in 2015.”

While men generally checked out in astonishing numbers, white men led the pack.

“Among all white men, the average broadcast seen just over one million fewer viewers, an 11% fall to 8.3 million in 2016 (9.3 million a year ago),” the review said.

Responsibility for much of this loss in viewership can certainly go to Colin Kaepernick and other players for their anti-American protests. The story reports that, “Losing 9% of male viewers — 1.14 million men — in a single season cannot be underestimated or easily explained by a Presidential election, protests that were less of a narrative after September or the hypocritical-as-all-hell #BoycottNFL campaign from some Twitter users. (Where was that two years ago?) However, those can be added onto the greater offense in the eyes of many fans: frequent matchups of bad to mediocre football teams.”

The growing number of anti-American protests during pro football hit broadcast networks in the wallet, too, when advertisers started demanding refunds on their advertising costs because of falling ratings.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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