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Anthem Protests Top Reason Fans Watched Fewer NFL Games; 1 in 6 Tuned Out to Track Election

By Craig Bannister | July 31, 2017 | 10:20am EDT
Why did NFL viewership drop 8% last year?

Player protests of the National Anthem - such as when quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee in protest - are the number one reason sports fans watched fewer National Football League (NFL) games, a new survey shows.

J.D. Power and Associates asked sports fans if they watched fewer NFL games last year – and, if so, why. Of those who tuned in less, here’s why they cut back on watching NFL games:

  • National Anthem Protests: 26%
  • NFL’s off-field image or game delays: 24%
  • Too many commercials/advertisements: 20%
  • Distracted by 2016 presidential race coverage: 16%
  • Cancelled cable subscription: 5%

One in six fans (16%) said they cut back on watching NFL games in order to focus on the 2016 presidential election coverage.

ESPN.com reports that viewership did, indeed, decline significantly more before the election than it did in the weeks following it, averaging an eight percent decline from last year:

“NFL game viewership on networks that broadcast games was down an average of 8 percent for the 2016 regular season versus the season before. Before the election (Nov. 8), games for the first nine weeks were down 14 percent compared to 2015. The final eight weeks saw only a drop of 1 percent compared to Weeks 10-17 in 2015.”

Last October – while the NFL season was in progress – a Seton Hall poll found that “56% of fans believe NFL television ratings are down due to players protesting the national anthem,” USA Today reported.

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