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NFL Ratings Take a Huge Dive Amid Continuing National Anthem Protests

nfl ratings

For the third straight season, NFL players are taking a knee during the national anthem — and the league’s ratings have followed suit.

Those ratings have declined steadily since the start of the 2016 season, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began a league-wide movement of national anthem protests. However, the league is only now really starting to see the full impact of it all.

The NFL’s “Monday Night Football” matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears earned an 8.2 TV rating, making it the lowest-rated “MNF” bout ever on ESPN.

The games have been on the channel since the start of the 2006 season [1].

The Monday night game had a unique challenge in that it went up against the Emmys, but it does fit the overall trend in which NFL television viewership has been going down. During the 2016 and 2017 NFL seasons combined, the league lost more than 10 percent of its television ratings; [3] and in the first week of this NFL season, the ratings for many games, including the nationally televised Thursday and Sunday night bouts, were down even compared to last year.

Most notably, the Thursday game hit a nine-year low [4] in viewership as far as week-one games go.

The NFL still faces the number-one issue that has led to these ratings declines, according to a JD Power poll and a Seton Hall Sports Poll from 2017: the protests against the national anthem.

This may also explain why fans do not seem to be attending as many games in person, either.

Many photos of NFL stadiums with loads of empty seats popped up online this week.

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.