Did NFL Ratings Drop Over Boycott Threats Stemming From Kneeling During Anthem?

October 09, 2018 - 5:42 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- There was talk about boycotting the NFL amid the controversy over players kneeling during the National Anthem.

USA Today crunched the numbers to see if a lot of TV viewers actually tuned out. As USA Today’s Matt Wynn told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace, there was not a huge difference year over year in ratings.

“Our goal was really to say, ‘Look, there was all this stuff going on. Obviously, there was the protest taking place. There was the president’s response to the protest. There was the vice president’s response to the protest. There were calls for boycotts on social media. And we wanted to say, ‘OK, given all this going on, was there any actual change in ratings? Was there any difference between a place that was strong Trump country from a place that wasn’t?” Wynn said.

There was something of a drop for NFL ratings in strong Trump country, but, Wynn said, “it wasn’t sizable, it wasn’t there, it wasn’t universal – and what’s more, it was far more important if the home team played well. If a place liked Trump a lot, but the home team was playing really well, people were going to watch football. It was that simple. It was a lot easier to tune out if the home team was bad.”

Among markets USA Today studied, Phoenix saw the biggest drop. The Cardinals came into 2016 thinking they had a Super Bowl team, but that did not pan out – the quarterback got injured, and the team went into 2017 with “absolutely no aspirations whatsoever,” Wynn said.

Thus, ratings for the Cardinals were higher than normal in 2016, while far lower than normal in 2017.

In Minneapolis, the Vikings were expected to be a decent team, but ended up being a phenomenal one, and ratings for games went up 20 percent year over year.

“And that extended into Trump country too. New Orleans was a mediocre team, I want to say, in 2016. In 2017, they were really good. And even though that was a place where Trump won and won big, people watched,” he said. “The Saints were good. In that area, they loved their team. They were going to watch football.”