It’s now what we can call a trend in the sports world. NFL television ratings for Week 1 of the season have been down at nearly every turn.
This started with a dramatic decrease in viewership for the Kansas City Chiefs’ home opener against the Houston Texans last Thursday. The backdrop to that game was the limited number of fans on hand at Arrowhead Stadium in Missouri booing the teams’ social stances during the national anthem. It did not stop from there.
NFL Week 1 ratings in decline, culminating on “Monday Night Football”
According to ShowBuzz Daily, the doubleader on Monday night represented a major downtick in viewership from the same time slots a season ago.
- Steelers at Giants: This game drew 10.8 million viewers on ESPN, down 21% from the early-game opener during Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season
- Titans at Broncos: Drew 7.7 million viewers, down a whopping 38% from the late game last year.
These are just some startling numbers right here. They are also a continuation of a trend around the NFL world thus far on the young season.
This comes after the “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Rams in Los Angeles saw a drop of 16.1% from last season’s opener. America’s Team being unable to draw 15 million viewers during a global pandemic in which people are at home more often than in the past can’t be seen as great news for the NFL.
The “Monday Night Football” doubleheader is also interesting in that it included one of the two teams in the nation’s largest media market (New York Giants) opening things up against another big media market team in that of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
President Trump spearheads NFL boycott
The president, potentially using this as a election year slogan, indicated before the NFL season started that he would boycott the season should national anthem protests continue. That’s exactly what we saw from players and teams throughout Week 1.
Unlike previous years, the NFL has decided to take a stand against Mr. Trump. That has only added to the divide between his supporters and the league. We saw this first-hand during Week 1 with widespread protests around the NFL.
- Texans take part in national anthem protests ahead of opener.
- Steelers hold banner in protest ahead of Monday Night Football.
- Vikings host the family of the slain George Floyd.
Those are just three examples of widespread protests around the National Football League during its Week 1 slate.
NFL supports Black Lives Matter protests
Adding to this was the NFL’s decision this past summer to come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and related protests against police brutality in the United States.
In doing this, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Co. admitted that they mishandled the Colin Kaepernick-led protests from back in 2016. It’s a dramatic change from the powers that be within the league office in New York City.
2020 Trump-Biden election and the NFL
We saw similar drops in NFL television ratings during the 2016 Presidential Election between President Trump and Hillary Clinton. It makes sense in that some of the intererst naturally flows away from sports to the political world.
Though, it must be noted that some of these ratings dips were in concert with the NFL going up directly against debates between Trump and Clinton. That will be something to watch moving forward this fall.
For his part, Trump’s stance on the NFL and national anthem protests were the same four years ago.