Despite the fact that national anthem protests have pretty much become extinct, the National Football League’s attendance woes continue, as thousands of empty seats have been spotted in stadiums across the country – stadiums that NFL fans have loyally packed in years past to support their home teams.
However, there is both good news and bad news for the NFL.
Too little, too late?
The good news? As national anthem-protesting players virtually disappeared last week, the league’s two-year television ratings landslide – that began with the anthem kneeling player movement – finally came to an end and began a modest three-percent rebound.
And the bad news? Even though there is a new trend of NFL fans no longer vacating their favorite recliners in front of their big screen TVs, they are still reluctant to pay the extra gas money, waste the extra travel time and spend the additional cash on tickets, food and memorabilia as they did in the past before the anthem protests.
Apparently, the NFL allowed scores of flag-disrespecting players to dishonor their country for too long before doing something about it and listening to President Donald Trump and other patriotic Americans who got fed up of seeing millionaire players setting a bad example for young NFL fans by taking a knee and sending the message to the police and American military that they are not appreciated for their sacrificial service to their nation.
Proof is in the seats …
The days when NFL owners could count on packed stands at every home game have evidently come to an end.
In years past, even teams in the cellar of their divisions found it hard to find blue or red splotches in the stands denoting patches of empty seats … but not today – not after the national anthem kneeling movement started two years ago when former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee on the sidelines while the national anthem was sung before every game.
When looking at the 2018 home attendance numbers provided by ESPN, nearly five percent of the seats at NFL stadiums across the nation are vacated during games, with some teams, like the Los Angeles Rams, seeing 26 percent of their seats empty. Even the once-celebrated Washington Redskins in the nation’s capital have seen an acute drop in attendance, with nearly 20 percent of its seats vacated for its first three home games.
Looking overseas for more seats …
In an attempt to rejuvenate attendance, the NFL took the pigskin across the Atlantic to see if Britons were more excited about watching the former anthem-kneelers on the gridiron, but virtually the same results were witnessed, with about 5,000 empty seats being reported in London, England – despite the premier NFL matchup taking place in a nation that rarely gets the opportunity to watch American football in person.
“[T]he NFL has hopes for expanding the reach of the game by playing in foreign locales such as Britain’s Wembley Stadium.” Breitbart News reported. “But according to those watching on TV and in attendance, there were thousands of empty seats in the grand stadium as the Seattle Seahawks dominated the L.A. Raiders in London.”
Despite numerous reports that thousands of empty seats were announced via social media by eyewitness fans in the United Kingdom, the NFL has touted the Seahawks-Raiders matchup as a being a successful stadium-packed event.
“The league said a huge number of tickets were sold, but fans aren’t convinced,” Breitbart’s Warner Todd Huston noted.
But the NFL’s interpretation of attendance at Wembley was not echoed by British NFL fans at the game.
“What's with all the empty prime seats at Wembley?” Barbara Ann asked via Twitter from Sunday’s Seahawks game in London. “I was told the game was sold out. Not fair to fans who wanted to travel to London.”
Another NFL fan at the game contended that if the game was a sellout, thousands of fans must have wasted hundreds of dollars and decided not to show up.
“Might of sold that many tickets, but never that number through the gates going by empty seats – I'd say 78k max, ticket touts had loads left at kickoff, too,” Scott Collins tweeted Sunday from the game.
One British NFL fan apparently took the time to count and estimate the number of vacated seats around him.
“5,000 empty seats!!!” Tony tweeted from the seats at Wembley Stadium Sunday.
The huge number of empty seats was brought up by another fan who indicated that the news of the game being a virtual sellout was more than an exaggeration – but rather an outright lie.
So many empty seats, no way it was that many,” Matthew Coman posted from the game on Sunday.
No place like home … or is there?
The same problem of thousands of cold and lonely seats was also reported across the United States at an NFL stadium near you.
“Things were just as dodgy back home as the Atlanta Falcons edged past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 34–29,” Huston pointed out. “Falcons fans seemed to have their pick of thousands of empty seats at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.”
NFL fans saw a similar trend in Ohio, where the orange-and-black striped helmets clashed with the black and yellow.
“The Cincinnati Bengals got beat by the Pittsburgh Steelers 28 to 21, but few were in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium to see it,” Huston recounted.
And the ever-popular Orange Crush of the Rocky Mountains also witnessed a lot of empty seats – in a stadium that has traditionally been packed from the kickoff through the final seconds.
“Likewise, as the Denver Broncos take on the Rams – with the Rams beating up on the Broncs by the third quarter at press time – fans at Sports Authority Field may have decided to take in other local activities in the Mile High City,” Huston pointed out.
Same thing in the Lone Star State, where football has been a way of life over the decades.
“NRG Stadium in Houston also seemed to have trouble turning out fans as the Houston Texans topped the Buffalo Bills 20–13,” the Breitbart reporter noted.
Empty seats in the Hoosier State were also witnessed on Sunday – despite an exciting premier offensive matchup.
“Despite a high-scoring game with a 42–34 final as the Indianapolis Colts lost to the New York Jets, some said MetLife Stadium was full of empty seats,” Huston explained.
The Volunteer State apparently could have used some volunteer fans to fill the Titans’ stadium Sunday.
“With the Tennessee Titans still battling the Baltimore Ravens at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium at press time, some fans said there were plenty of seats to be had,” Huston pointed out.
And even though the Browns have upped their game since finishing 0–16 last year, they were unable to keep thousands of seats from being vacated Sunday.
“Finally, the Cleveland Browns were stomped 38–14 by the Los Angeles Chargers, but fans stomped off somewhere else leaving FirstEnergy Stadium with lots of empty seats according to witnesses,” Huston noted.
Sunday Night Football on the downswing, too
As if attendance during the NFL’s Sunday morning and afternoon games were not bad enough, its showcased Sunday night game showing at the beginning of the month did not fare any better with TV viewers … but worse.
“Sunday Night Football ratings hit [a] season low as [the] Baltimore Ravens rip [the] Steelers,” Deadline.com reported in Week 4. “The mantra for the current NFL champions in Philadelphia may be ‘fly Eagles, fly,’ but last night on Sunday Night Football, it was Super Bowl XLVII winners, the Baltimore Ravens, who hit high notes in tearing the Pittsburgh Steelers apart.”
Even though the NFL’s television ratings recently started to climb after its two-year descent, its Sunday night ratings plummeted to the worst of the season a couple weeks ago.
“In a 26–14 win on SNF, the Ravens are now 3–1 this season and the Keystone State team is near the bottom of the AFC North,” Deadline.com’s Dominic Patten announced on October 1. “The game in Pittsburgh on Sunday also saw another type of bottoming out in the ratings for the league and the NFL, as the primetime Week 4 matchup drew a 12.3/21 in metered-market results to hit a season low.”
This was a substantial drop from the previous week’s matchup.
“The early number is down 10 percent from the Detroit Lions’ easy win over the New England Patriots last week,” Patten stressed.