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NFL Ratings Take a Knee as Approval of Pro Sports Plummets Amid Anthem Protests

By Craig Bannister | September 16, 2020 | 10:31am EDT
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National Football League (NFL) viewership tumbled in the first week of the 2020 season as players’ National Anthem protests continued from last season and Americans’ opinion of professional sports collapsed.

Compared to last year, television viewership of NFL games fell 7.9% in the opening week and suffered an even-steeper 22% decline for the two Monday night games, according to The Hollywood Reporter:

“ESPN's Monday Night Football doubleheader took a sizable loss compared to a year ago. The early game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants averaged 10.76 million viewers, while the Tennessee Titans' win over the Denver Broncos in the late game managed just 7.7 million. The two contests were down about 22 percent from a year ago.

“The NFL's opening weekend as a whole drew about 7.5 percent fewer viewers than in 2019. The two games were Monday's top programs among adults 18-49 by a wide margin, posting ratings of 3.6 and 2.9.”

A newly-released national, annual Gallup study surveying Americans’ approval of 25 U.S. business and industry sectors finds that approval of the sports industry has plummeted over the past year.

“The biggest slide, however, has been for the sports industry, with its positive score falling 15 points -- from 45% to 30%,” Gallup reports.

What’s more, Americans’ image of the sports industry has turned from positive to negative since 2019:

“The sports industry now has a negative image, on balance, among Americans as a whole, with 30% viewing it positively and 40% negatively, for a -10 net-positive score. This contrasts with the +20 net positive image it enjoyed in 2019, when 45% viewed it positively and 25% negatively.”

With only 30% approval, the sports industry is viewed even worse than such often-criticized business sectors as the “legal field” (33%), the “advertising and public relations industry” (34%), and the “oil and gas industry” (43%).

The only other business sectors recording a negative net-positive score are “the pharmaceutical industry” (-15) and “the federal government.” (-20)

One factor contributing to sports’ lost approval, Gallup reports, is that “Professional football, baseball and basketball games have also become focal points for public displays of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.”

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