The NFL opened its 2017 season Thursday night, in much the same way that it played out the 2016 season. The game featured the team that won the final game of the year last season, the game was high-scoring with plenty of offense, the game featured an anthem protest, and the league’s ratings went down.
The game between the Chiefs and the Patriots drew a 14.6 overnight rating on NBC. That rating is down nearly two full points from last year’s 16.5 number for the Panthers-Broncos opener, and more than three points down from the Steelers-Patriots opener in 2015.
Why, the steep decline?
While the ratings have clearly trended down for a number of seasons, last night’s game did feature an anthem protest from Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, and it’s entirely likely that many tuned-out after seeing that:
The sports media would gladly point the finger at politics, as the cause of the ratings drop. Though, no debate, or matter of pressing national importance was being discussed in politics on Thursday night. Some have opined that coverage of Hurricane Irma, might be the culprit. Though, it rings hollow that coverage of the storm would cause a 12% decline in ratings from last year.
Instead, it’s more likely that NFL fans are following through on their warnings of last year. Specifically, the warning where 44% of fans said they would stop watching the NFL if the anthem protests continued. That poll, backed-up by the J.D. Power survey which showed that most fans cited the anthem protests as the main reason for why they stopped watching the league, might have a lot more to do with the ratings drop than Irma.