On the same day he celebrated the Big Ten’s return, President Trump took another shot at the NFL on Wednesday — bashing the league for “cratered” television ratings after its first week of games.
Trump blamed the league’s dip on players and teams not standing for the national anthem over the weekend. A number of players elected to sit, kneel or raise fists to protest racial injustice and police brutality during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Other teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins elected to remain in the locker room.
According to Sports Business Journal, the league’s ratings fell 9% across seven game windows.
“We have plenty of politics to go around without disrespecting our great American Flag or Anthem,” Trump tweeted. “I thought the NFL learned their lesson two years ago. The people will not put up with this (again). Just not worth it, hard to watch!”
Television rating experts have said it is hard to quantify just how much social activism from players and teams contribute to a decline in viewership. There are other factors that also influence ratings, such as the changing nature of television watching and competition from other programs.
Patrick Crakes, the former Fox Sports senior vice president of programming, research and content strategy, told The Washington Times last month that overall spots consumption is up, but “the total number of minutes can be up because people are flipping (channels) around, so they might shave a minute or two off their duration of one thing and go over to something else.”
Still, the league saw big dropoffs in primetime matchups. Sunday night’s game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys averaged 18.94 million viewers — the lowest opening rating in Week 1 since 2008. That number was also down 15% from last year.
On “Monday Night Football,” the game between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers saw a 20% decrease in viewership from 2019, with the contest averaging 10.8 million viewers compared to 13.5 million (Texans-Saints).
Not every game saw a decline. Fox’s “America’s Game of the Week”— a blockbuster matchup between Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints — drew a massive 25.8 million viewers, seeing a 7% jump from the prior year. The matchup was also the most-viewed Week 1 afternoon game in four years.
Compared to other sporting events, the NFL still dominates. Monday’s Giants-Steelers game? That was the third highest-rated sporting event on cable since January, according to ESPN. Per data from Show Buzz Daily, the five most-watched sporting events last week were all NFL games. The next closest event was Game 5 of the second-round series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets in the NBA, drawing nearly 4.7 million viewers.
Trump has often targeted the NFL for player protests, arguing they are disrespectful to the flag. At a campaign rally on Saturday, Trump called football “boring as hell” and said it was no longer the same.
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