NFL Ratings Never Recovered Following Kaepernick Fiasco

Reuters via USA Today Sports

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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The NFL suffered from declining television ratings for the first time in decades this fall.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick ignited a national debate in August when he refused to stand during the national anthem at a home preseason game. Kaepernick was blasted for the decision, and further angered many when he made some disparaging comments about America’s law enforcement and wore socks depicting police as pigs. (RELATED: Colin Kaepernick’s Police-Pig Socks)

Hundreds of thousands promised to boycott the NFL due to Kaepernick’s protest, but many in the media continued to suggest that it was the presidential campaign that hurt ratings.

While ratings made a rebound following the 2016 presidential election, the final numbers show a significant dip in ratings from last year. Viewership of NFL games during the fall election were down 14 percent from the same time last year, with an average of 15.5 million viewers per game.

After the election, viewership rebounded, but not enough to offset the early losses. The final regular season total was 16.5 million viewers per NFL game, which is down 8 percent from the 17.9 average viewers per NFL game in 2015.

Another reason professional football may have taken a hit is because of a deficit of star power. Sports are no different from film, Derek Thompson of the Atlantic says, “What national audiences desire above all are heroes, compelling challenges and sequels.”

Fifteen months ago, Peyton Manning was the league’s highest paid endorsement star, making $12 million off the football field. Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Marshawn Lynch and Tony Romo rounded out the top nine players by endorsement revenue.

Fast forward 18 months and the list of “heroes” has diminished. Manning and Lynch have retired, while Watt and Romo have been injured for most of the season.

The NFL still rakes in more cash than any other league due to multi-billion dollar contracts with television networks. The league made $7.3 billion in 2014 from contracts with NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN.

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