Celebrity athletes and entire teams have been making headlines for over a year, not by their accomplishments on the field or court, but for kneeling during the national anthem. While the media focus has primarily been on the athletes themselves and has been overwhelmingly positive, the actual numbers of viewers and attendees tells a far different story.
Despite the fawning attention these athletes have received, American viewers are tuning out — as pro sports shifts even further left, it is leaving some key demographics behind. Ratings are plunging, which means advertising dollars and other important metrics are plummeting as well.
According to Breitbart, the most recent numbers for the start of the NFL season are in, and the news is not good. At the NFL season opener in Kansas City, the stands were far less crowded than usual. While this can be attributed to social distancing measures and Covid-19, the booing from the crowd has no relation to the illness.
The audience booed both teams as they took to the field and knelt for the anthem. According to Jason Whitlock in Outkick, “The booing you heard at Arrowhead Stadium Thursday night isn’t hard to understand. Black Lives Matter is toxic and divisive.”
It wasn’t just the in-person fans who objected to the new, politicized NFL. Home viewers tuned out entirely, with an astonishing 16 percent drop in viewership for the usually popular season opening game. This game, which launched the season on September 10, was not an anomaly — just three nights later, all Sunday games were well off of last year’s ratings as well.
According to the most recent ratings, Sunday’s first games of the regular season were down as well. It is important to note that these ratings are being compared to 2019 — a year that also saw rapidly declining ratings and the rise of the kneeling athlete as a celebrity.
While the drop in in-person attendance can be attributed to Covid-19, the falling television ratings can not. In most other programming genres, television ratings are up, simply because people are spending more time at home. With pro sports in 2020, though, that has not been the case. Ratings continue to fall from last years already low figures.
A clue to the falling ratings comes from Gallup, which recently polled adults about different industries and how they are perceived. Professional sports saw a significant drop in overall option, with fewer positive responses. Other professions, including healthcare, improved during the same time period. According to Gallup: “The biggest slide . . . has been for the sports industry, with its positive score falling 15 points—from 45% to 30%.”
The most popular sports events and days of the year are still ahead, and it remains to be seen how the Black Lives Matter and the ongoing protest by athletes will impact the numbers for the overall season. While the impact of this activism is just beginning to show, the downward trend is already impacting the industry as a whole.