As it turns out, President Donald Trump may have been on to something when he said NFL players were turning off viewers by kneeling during the National Anthem. As Deadline reports, both the NBC and NFL took a hit during Sunday Night Football last night when ratings dropped, as some Americans appeared to heed Trump’s call to boycott the NFL unless owners agree to fire or suspend players who don’t stand during the anthem.
In metered market numbers, the primetime match-up between the 27-10 winning Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders snared an 11.6/20. That’s the worst rating for SNF so far this season, marking an 8% dip from the early numbers of last week’s Atlanta Falcon’s 34-23 win over the Green Bay Packers, and a 10% dip from the same week last year.
The Redskins linked arms last night, while nearly every single Raiders player sat on the bench during the anthem, Deadline says.
Here are the top markets for last night’s SNF:
Richmond – 22.1/33
Norfolk – 19.8/31
Sacramento – 17.5/32
S.F./Oakland – 17.2/35
New Orleans – 17.2/24
Denver – 16.2/27
Kansas City – 14.8/24
Las Vegas – 14.5/23
However, not every network saw a ratings dip. Bloomberg reports that CBS, whose Sunday night games included a closely fought matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Cincinnati Bengals, experienced a small ratings bump, probably because the close score drew in more viewers. Fox hasn’t yet released viewership numbers for its NFL games on Sunday. Overnight ratings are subject to change when final numbers are released later Monday. The New York Times and other mainstream media had discounted Trump's claim, tweeted over the weekend, that the NFL's ratings had suffered because of the protests, despite a survey showing that many fans reported tuning out last year because of the protests.
Trump criticized the NFL Friday night during a rally in Alabama, where he called players who kneel for the anthem "a son of a b***H" and said any team owner who fired or suspended the protesting players would become "the most popular person in the country - at least for a week." His comments drew rebukes from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as well as Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
The trend of kneeling for the anthem started last year when no- unemployed quarterback and then San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick refused to stand, saying he refused to honor the US because of institutionalized racism. Since then, a number of NFL players have publicly protested police brutality and racial injustice by not standing for the National Anthem.