Compared with the Nielsen ratings of the National Football League’s 2016 season, this year's viewership of televised games for the first three weeks has dropped 11 percent – an indication that fans are fed up with players playing politics … instead of football.
The substantial dip from 17.63 million viewers last year to 15.77 in 2017 appear to have everything to do with the escalating National Anthem protests that attracted even more attention when President Donald Trump called the player protesters “sons of [expletive]” and urged NFL owners to fire those refusing to honor their country and pay tribute to the flag.
“The NFL ratings are in focus because of President Donald Trump’s suggestion that viewers are turned off by a protest against police brutality that began with quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem,” an Associated Press report published by Breitbart News explained. “The protests spread rapidly this past weekend following the president’s criticism of people involved.”
Things getting worse for NFL?
An even bigger drop in ratings is anticipated next week as patriotic Americans are calling for an all-out boycott of the NFL for allowing – and not disciplining the anti-American displays on a weekly basis.
“Next week’s ratings will be even more closely watched, since conservative groups and Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity have called for people angered by the protests to boycott this weekend’s games,” the AP pointed out.
In an attempt to put an end to the unpatriotic displays that were inspired by Kaepernick and perpetuated by an increasing number of players – mainly African Americans – Trump rebuked the disrespectful athletes via numerous tweets, as well as by remarks he made at a Friday night rally.
“In a series of tweets and remarks that began at a rally on Friday night, Trump lashed out at players who ‘take a knee’ during the national anthem,” Forbes reported.
He suggested that something must be done to end the weekly grandstanding.
“Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now – out, he's fired. He's fired,'" Trump posed to the audience at the rally, according to Forbes.
The correlation between protests and the sinking ratings were also pointed out by Trump, but after highlighting the NFL’s “massive” ratings decline, his tweets only seemed to spur more anthem protests on Sunday.
“NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
Even though a couple high-profile games saw a rise in viewership, the general consensus across the televised games shows a declining audience.
“Before Sunday’s games, ratings for Sunday Night Football were down 7 percent this year, while those for Sunday afternoon games were down … 19 percent on CBS, year over year,” Forbes’ Madeline Berg informed. “ESPN’s Monday Night Football has seen a ratings drop of 5 percent.”
Sunday football did not fare much better for Fox.
“Sunday Night Football averaged an 11.6 rating in Nielsen’s metered-market household numbers,” Variety.com reported. “That’s down 11 percent from early numbers for the third week of the season last year.”
It was also noted that Americans wanting to see what players would do during the anthem could have boosted some viewership above what it would have normally been.
“While it is impossible to say if yesterday's mixed ratings were in response to the President, some viewers may have actually been tuning in to see how players and owners reacted to Trump’s remarks, which ramped up over the weekend to target owners – many of them Republicans and former or current Trump supporters – for not punishing the players,” Berg ventured.
Trump was not hesitant to propose a remedy for the NFL’s pregame spectacles.
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump insisted on another tweet Sunday. “Fire or suspend!”
More problems …
The Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans were the only teams in the NFL last week that did not have players kneeling – because they did not participate in the anthem on the field. But these were not without controversy.
In a claimed attempt to avoid division on his team, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said he wanted to stay away from the politics of kneeling or not kneeling. But when defensive player and Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva showed up at the end of the tunnel to pay tribute to the U.S. and the flag, many patriotic American applauded his boldness, highlighting the Steelers’ refusal to observe the anthem and honor the flag.
A major backlash was poured out on the Steelers for their pregame production, with many fans burning their jerseys and boycotting the team for its anti-American demonstration – a counter-protest that could very well affect the Nielsen ratings for weeks into the season.