NFL sees 19% drop in Monday Night Football ratings partly due to boycott over anthem protests
Ratings for NFL Monday Night Football games on TV have dropped 19% this year, at least partly due to #boycottNFL – a movement to punish the league for allowing players to disrespect the National Anthem.
While streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have also cut into NFL ratings. there is a growing disgust by football fans with the league's response to players who take a knee during the National Anthem, or raise their fists in the black power salute.
There’s no denying that the numerous #BoycottNFL online campaigns and fan outrage aimed at the National Anthem protests in the NFL have taken a toll in terms of viewership. Additionally, cord-cutting continues to eat into traditional TV’s ratings at an alarming rate. But could there be something else at play?
We’re barely a year removed from the NFL setting all-time records in viewership, yet now the league is on pace for its lowest ratings in years. That’s a sharp and unexpectedly sudden turn.
Given the politicized controversies and the variety of streaming options this year, have we reached a cumulative point of football fatigue? The numbers suggest so.
Last night’s Monday Night Football matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants drew a 9.1overnight rating, an 8% drop from last year’s comparable Week 4 game between the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks. The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs game in 2014 earned a 9.6 rating.
While the number of streaming viewers has increased – last night’s game attracted 262,000 average minute viewers on digital platforms, a 23% increase from last year – total viewership is still trending downward. Last week’s Monday Night Football game unsurprisingly got clobbered in the ratings thanks to the presidential debate. That game drew a 5.7 overnight rating, the lowest in MNF history.
Overall, MNF‘s ratings are down a whopping 19% this year, according to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.
Now that the numbers have come in for last night’s game, we can safely label the NFL’s ratings problems as a larger trend. The question now becomes how does the NFL fix the problem?
The first and most important thing the league can do to stop the bleeding is to grow a pair. Their timidity in the face of players protesting "oppression" and "police murder" has enraged local police – some of whom refuse to work the games. Ordinary fans do not like to see their police departments smeared by players making many millions of dollars a year and are making their feelings known the only way they can: by turning off the games.
Disrespecting the anthem is now the popular thing to do at college and high school football games as well. School authorities look on approvingly as our anthem is trashed by know-nothing kids and millionaire athletes alike.
If they are doing it to show solidarity with Kaepernick, they are doing so out of a profound ignorance for what the player said. Are black people really being targeted for death? Are police really getting away with murder? That kind of incendiary nonsense does not help the community, despite the claims of the protesters.
The NFL is perfectly capable of taking a stand against politicizing the game. But as long as its operators are terrified of a backlash from the black community, they will do nothing.