The NFL used to be the golden goose for television networks, and their ratings. However, new numbers show that the league has gone from laying golden eggs for the networks, to just laying, well, eggs.
According to Nielsen data obtained by the Sporting News, “League games averaged 15.1 million viewers through Week 7. That’s down 5.1 percent from 15.87 million viewers during the same period last season and off 18.7 percent from 18.35 million viewers during the same period in 2015.”
As the Sporting News notes, “Ratings are lagging for a variety of reasons, not least the ongoing protests during the national anthem that former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began in 2016. Fans are still angry about Kaepernick’s continued unemployment as well as what’s seen as the growing politicization of the NFL.
“In addition, President Donald Trump continues to attack the league for not forcing all players to stand during the anthem. Commissioner Roger Goodell and player reps met last week to seek a way forward, but there wasn’t much progress and players continue to protest.”
The NFL’s ratings loss cannot be 100% attributed to the anthem protests. And I’m not suggesting the Sporting News means to say that it is. After all, the Nielsen data collected by the Sporting News goes back to 2015, a year before Colin Kaepernick began his protest. However, while causes ranging from too many games, too many penalties, the length of games, cord-cutting, and the general drop-off in the quality of play, all have something to do with the NFL’s historic decline.
It’s pretty clear that the current fan backlash, captured best in several recent polls and surveys, has an awful lot to do with the protests begun by Colin Kaepernick. While, ensuring that all players respect the anthem wouldn’t solve all of the NFL’s problems. It would solve a pretty big one, and it might restore some faith that league leadership was at listening to their fan base.
Instead, Colin Kaepernick, the same guy who has charged the NFL with collusion, gets invited to New York to sit-in on social justice meetings.
That’s a problem.