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NFL ratings compared to the NBA Playoffs tell us a story

Nov 24, 2019; Orchard Park, NY, USA; General view of an American Flag on the field during the National Anthem prior to the game between the Denver Broncos and the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been made about the decrease in those watching NFL games during the first week of the 2020 season.

It is not exactly known what has led to the ratings plummeting around the football world. One theory is that ongoing protests during the national anthem have turned some fans off. That makes sense given the political reality in the United States today.

As for the ratings themselves, things are not going great for the NFL.

Week 1 NFL ratings plummet amid protests

Monday night’s doubleheader consisting of the New York Giants taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos hosting the Tennessee Titans adds another layer to this.

The first game in New Jersey was down 17% from a season ago. Meanwhile, ESPN’s broadcast of the Broncos-Titans game was down a whopping 38%.

As for America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, taking on the Los Angeles Rams on “Sunday Night Football.” Well, that wasn’t great news for the NFL’s brand, either. Ratings for the nationally televised game on NBC were down 16.1% from a season ago.

Related: Donald Trump calls for NFL boycott

With all of that said, it appears that ratings around the sports world are down in general. The NFL is still killing its competition among every viable demographic.

NBA Playoff ratings are not great

Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals series between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers tipped off right as NFL Week 1 was taking place Sunday afternoon. The numbers are not great for the Association.

  • Nuggets-Clippers game drew just 1.3 million viewers on ESPN. It was a huge game in that if the Nuggets came out on top, they would have forced a Game 7. As it is, Denver ultimately took the series on Tuesday.
  • The NFL games on CBS and Fox during the same time slot drew a combined 27 million viewers. That’s an average of 12-plus million more viewers than the NBA game.
  • Given that we’re talking about the NBA Playoffs compared to the NFL regular season, this isn’t great for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Co.

As for Thursday night’s opener between the Chiefs and Texans, that game absolutely dwarfed what we saw from Game 4 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets series. The NFL game saw 20.5 million viewers tune in while the NBA Playoff game had 2.5 million viewers tune in.

Related: NBA cancels games to boycott police brutality

Though, there’s another major backdrop to all of this. The NBA’s season resumed at Walt Disney World in Orlando with teams taking part of protests of their own during the national anthem.

As for the NBA, there’s been a major rift between that league and those who fall under the belief that protesting during the anthem is a sign of disrespect. Typically, NBA champions visit the White House. In President Donald Trump’s four years in office, not a single champion has visited with him.

Related: NBA backs LeBron James over criticism from Donald Trump

In general, the sports world has taken to the Black Lives Matter movement and associated protests against police brutality in the United States.

  • MLB: Teams spent the opening week of the 2020 season in late July protesting during the national anthem. It was surprising given that Major League Baseball typically doesn’t stand out as a platform for social change.
  • NHL: When the NBA decided to cancel a couple days of playoff action in boycott over police brutality, the NHL was quick to follow suit. The league canceled multiple days of playoff action inside Canada’s bubble.

There’s an argument that interest in sports is down due to the widespread protests we’re seeing within that world.

With that said, we have absolutely no concrete idea what has led to the decrease in television ratings. Time will tell on that front.

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