Roger Goodell Doesn’t Agree with Ratings Slump ‘Premise’

NFL commissioner pushed back on the claim that the national anthem protests brought about the league's decline

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 27 Dec 2017 at 9:51 AM

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell told CNBC hosts on Monday that he doesn’t “take your premise at all” that the league’s ratings decline signals “the best days for NFL ratings” are over.

Goodell found himself embroiled in the national controversy over NFL players’ protests that erupted in September. That’s when President Donald Trump urged the coaches to discipline players who refused to stand for the national anthem, following the protest former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began in 2016.

Since then, NFL viewership ratings have slumped.

"Well, I think, let's step back and talk about what's happening to ratings overall: The NFL's ratings are 25 out of 30 in the top-rated shows in sports in all of entertainment this year," Goodell said. "I don't take your premise at all. I would say that fans are going to different devices to consume media. And you have to be on those devices."

Goodell was responding to CNBC host Melissa Lee, who asked him, "So when we see viewership in week 10 for the NFL down 18 percent, which brings the whole year to a decline of 7 percent according to JPMorgan, is that ... a secular decline? Have we seen the best days for NFL ratings when it comes to linear viewing?"

CNBC anchor Joe Kernan said "parts of society" are "mad about the kneeling" before he asked Goodell if the national anthem controversy contributed heavily to lower attendance rates.

"How do you explain what's happening?" Kernan asked Goodell.

The NFL commissioner said attendance ratings are down 1 percent, but attributed much of that to a few key teams undergoing "major changes."

"We're very pleased where our attendance is," Goodell said, adding, "We always want to see those numbers go up."

As for the pictures depicting sparsely populated stadiums, Goodell dismissed them, saying, "You always get that late in the season."

Related: Anthem Protests Take a Major Toll on NFL Fan Loyalty

Although Goodell largely dismissed concerns that slumping NFL ratings partially are due to the ongoing national anthem controversy, some key advertisers believe the protests and the NFL's refusal to require that players stand contributed to their own declining sales.

Papa John's founder and CEO John Schnatter complained November 1 during a conference call with league executives that "the NFL hash hurt us. We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this," adding the issue should have been "nipped in the bud" back in 2016.

Related: 10 Fan Alternatives to the NFL

Genesco Inc. blamed some of its declining sales on the NFL controversy as well.

"The well-publicized challenges facing the NFL have meaningfully dampened demand for NFL-licensed merchandise during the heart of football season," CEO Robert Dennis said December 1 on a company call. "This NFL impact was the single biggest factor weighing on [third-quarter] sales."

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].

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