Shortly after Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in 2016, NFL ratings went down with it, the Sports Rush reports. Citing a “too political” climate, many fans turned away from the sport. Ratings dropped 11 percent for the season.
A survey of more than 1,700 people questioned fans who support players kneeling and those who don’t. Ironically the survey found the two have something in common. They both are turning on the NFL just for different reasons.
Ratings in 2020 have been up and but mostly down. While Monday Night Football saw a high in ratings this week, Thursday Night Football between the Dolphins and Jaguars was down more than 1 million viewers from the week prior, Sportsnaut.com reported.
More players and coaches are kneeling to protest racial injustice this season than ever before. The NFL gave its blessing to the practice during the off season. But are fans getting the message or will they continue to turn away from the sport?
Problems start in week 1
Ratings were down from the start this season. The opening night game between the Chiefs and Texans saw a 12% drop in viewership from the previous year, according to NBC. Aside from that, fans booed the moment of unity before the game where players locked arms and stood together in silence at midfield.
There are multiple potential reasons for the drop in viewers. The lack of a preseason may have kept fans from knowing when was week 1 or caring about the new season at all. COVID-19 is still causing major problems across the U.S. Only a handful of stadiums are even allowing fans in during games. This is also the first time the league has had to compete with the NBA playoffs and NHL Stanley Cup. Both of which were pushed to later in the year because of the coronavirus.
But consistently, it’s come back to kneeling. Many fans have said they turning away from the game after players began to kneel during the anthem. Some have taken to social media to express anger over the practice.
It’s such a problem that some teams refuse to take the field until after the anthem is sung. Some teams are preferring to perform a moment of unity or group gesture at midfield during the anthem. These have had mixed results with fans. And throughout it all, viewership has stayed low. Ratings for Sunday Night Football during the first two weeks of the season were down 6 percent and 5 percent respectively, Deadline reported.