NFL ratings declined on Sunday, though it was unclear whether the drop was related to President Donald Trump’s call for fans to boycott the games because of player protests.
Match-ups on Fox and NBC drew fewer viewers than a year earlier, while CBS said the number of people tuning in rose. Monday night’s game, featuring major draw Dallas Cowboys, may lift the weekend’s ratings. Viewership for the entire season has been down.
Over the weekend, Trump criticized players for kneeling during the national anthem, a practice started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a protest against police brutality and mistreatment of black Americans. Trump said owners should fire players who protested and urged fans to skip watching NFL games.
Debate over the national anthem was “a side issue” that’s likely to boost ratings for sports talks shows or pre-game shows, but not affect whether people watch the actual games, said Lee Berke, president of consultant LHB Sports Entertainment & Media.
On Monday, the president continued his attacks against the league, tweeting the hashtag #StandForOurAnthem and saying the “issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our country, flag and national anthem. NFL must respect this!”
For now, the NFL’s broadcast partners are not seeing the same audience boost that other media outlets, from CNN to the New York Times, witnessed after Trump criticized them. That may be partly due to the fact the NFL isn’t doing investigative journalism about the Trump administration or because of the diverse political makeup of NFL fans.
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Gerry Smith