NFL ratings down as new season begins

FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2013, file photo, fans watch at the start of an NFL football game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

The NFL season just kicked off and already the league’s ratings are off to bad start.

The season’s opening game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs drew 21.8 million viewers, down 13% from 2015. And overall NFL viewership dropped 8% last year compared to 2015.

But why are fans watching fewer games?

According to a 2017 J.D. Power Survey, national anthem protests were the number one reason why fans tuned out, followed closely by domestic violence (24 percent) and game delays (24 percent).

“I use to be an avid NFL football fan, Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night, Sunday afternoon; I watched it all,” said Jon Christensen. “I will not give my time or my attention to million dollar spoiled brats who do not stand up for the flag and who do not honor our country. I am done with NFL football."

In weeks one and two, multiple NFL players protested during the national anthem over racial oppression and police brutality. Some players refused to stand, others knelt, and some raised their fists.

Green Bay Packers Martellus Bennett raised a fist with a black glove during the national anthem before Sunday’s game between the Packers and Atlanta Falcons. Earlier Sunday, his brother, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, celebrated a sack with a single raised fist on the field during Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

“I stand against specific policy brutality,” said former NFL player Tony Pashos. “I never want to stereotype an entire class of people over the injustices of a few.”

The protests come one year after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick started the movement. Kaepernick is still unsigned this season.

“What Kaep did was the simplest, easiest way that you can do something to get your point across, without disrespecting the flag,” said former NFL player Kim Herring.

In a memo to team owners last year, the NFL refused to blame the national anthem protests as a factor in a drop in viewership, instead saying a “confluence of events” explained declining ratings and added high interest from the 2016 presidential election made people watch less.

“The Colin Kaepernick controversy does seem to have been be a factor with where we are right now with NFL television ratings, but it’s not the only one,” said sports media analyst, Bruce DePuyt.

Depuyt believes politics, historic storms like Hurricane Harvey and Irma, and the medical impact of playing football are also pulling viewers away from games.

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