NFL ratings are down this year. My personal theory is people are starting to question the entertainment value of watching armored men run into each other for what feels like eight hours at a time, but I'm still gathering the data to back it up.
But right-leaning polling firm Rasmussen Reports has its own theory about the drop in viewing based on a telephone survey it conducted regarding the ongoing protests by NFL athletes during the national anthem, started by San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The company's pollsters asked 1,000 American adults the following question:
Are you more likely or less likely to watch a National Football League game because of the growing number of Black Lives Matter protests by players on the field? Or do those protests have no impact on your viewing decisions?
The survey results found 32% said they were less likely to watch an NFL game as a result. But—surprise!—white respondents were twice as likely to say they were forgoing NFL games compared with black survey-takers, 36% to 18%.
The results definitely jibe with a wave of social media posts by football fans full of petulant declarations that they are done with the NFL.
Who knew there was so much support for Safe Spaces in the NFL?
But linking Rasmussen's survey to the ratings decline would be a little premature, for reasons other than the firm's pronounced conservative tilt.
Sports Illustrated reported the Sept. 26th game between the Saints and Falcons had the lowest viewership in Monday Night Football history — with only 8.047 million viewers. Can you think of anything else that was going on that evening? I'll give you a hint.
Perhaps viewers are trading football for a very niche brand of reality TV.
There's also the fact that, in general, Americans seem to be watching less live sports overall. Sports Business Daily found that in recent months there have been big viewership drops for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, NASCAR races (where insufficient patriotism is never an issue), primetime UFC fights, the U.S. Open and the NCAA basketball championship.
Maybe my original theory's not too far off.