The NFL registered the highest unfavorable rating of any major U.S. sport for the third straight month in a newly released survey, a hit attributed in part to the ongoing protests during the national anthem.
The Winston Group Sports Survey released last week found the NFL was ranked “unfavorable” by 38 percent of respondents, the highest percentage of any major professional sport as well as college football and basketball.
Major League Baseball had the highest favorable rating at 63 percent and lowest unfavorable at 15 percent, while the NFL notched a 48 percent favorable rating.
“Major League Baseball continues to have the best sports brand by a significant margin,” said the survey. “The NFL had been competitive, but since the kneeling controversy it fell significantly behind, and this survey continues to demonstrate that trend.”
The poll, conducted Nov. 29-30, offered some good news for the NFL: The 38 percent unfavorable figure represented a slight improvement from the 40 percent unfavorable rating registered in September and October.
In August, prior to the start of the season, the NFL’s unfavorable rating was just 23 percent, but spiked in the aftermath of criticism over the kneeling from President Trump, which prompted an increase in the number of players refusing to stand for the anthem.
The NFL’s 48 percent favorable rating in the most recent survey was also slightly higher, up from 44 percent in the previous two months, according to the survey of 1,000 registered voters.
“The question is whether this is a small start back toward the original brand standing, or a settling-in process for the new brand standing of the NFL with the public,” said the Winston Groupanalysis.
“It is becoming more and more clear that the NFL may be unable to reverse the damage caused by the National Anthem protests and could be facing huge public opinion problems, and losses of advertising dollars for that matter,” said 2ndVote.
The NFL’s ratings woes continue apace, with the league posting a season-low “Thursday Night Football” television audience in the Week 15 game between two teams with losing records, the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, according to Deadline Hollywood.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has pointed out that the games are still more popular than most programming, rejecting the premise that the league’s best days may be behind it.
“Let’s step back and talk about what’s happening to ratings overall: The NFL’s ratings are 25 out of 30 of the top-rated shows in sports in all of entertainment this year,” Mr. Goodell told CNBC in a Monday interview.
The NFL’s ratings are down 7 percent from the 2016 season based on JPMorgan figures, CNBC reported.
“I would say fans are going to different devices to consume media, so you have to be on those devices,” he said.
The protests over racism and social injustice began during the 2016 season over the deaths of black men at the hands of police.
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