Americans are losing interest in watching the NFL and it is posing a serious problem for the future of professional football.
The Wall Street Journal and NBC News interviewed 900 adults from Jan. 13-17 and found that fans are following the sport shockingly less closely than they were just four years ago.
51 percent of men aged 18 to 49–the sport’s key demographic–report following football closely, down 24 percent from 2014. Overall, adults who say they follow the NFL closely is down 9 percent from 2014.
Viewership among Republicans and Democrats has fallen markedly since 2014, dropping 14 and 16 percentage points, respectively.
The poll did not ask why their viewing habits have changed.
The findings come two days before the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52. They also come out after a year of NFL players protesting the National Anthem.
Protesting began in the 2016 NFL season with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The former quarterback claimed to protest because of the oppression of black people and acts of police brutality.
Kaepernick sparked a mass wave of protests, known as the #TakeTheKnee movement, that have trickled down to Pop Warner football teams across the nation.
The president began railing against the #TakeTheKnee movement at a speech in Huntsville, Ala., while he was campaigning for former Alabama Sen. Luther Strange.
“The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway,” Trump said.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
Trump kept the rhetoric up throughout much of the NFL season, even showing up on the field for the presentation of the national anthem at the NCAA national championship game.
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