The final TV ratings numbers for the NFL season are in, and it appears the National Anthem protests soured many fans, as millions turned off TV games in record numbers.
Earlier this year, the NFL lost its position as America’s favorite sport, with fans picking Major League Baseball instead. As stadiums stood half-full for many games, we now know TV ratings prove fans have moved on.
The average audience was 14.9 million viewers per game, down 9.7 percent from 16.5 million viewers in the 2016 regular season, according to Nielsen. The 2016 viewership was down eight percent from the previous year.
Beginning with now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the 2016 NFL preseason, many players generated nationwide controversy peacefully protesting inequality and police violence against minorities by refusing to stand during the national anthem.
The NFL has also faced negative press over the ongoing issue with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – the long-term degenerative condition linked to head injuries that afflicted a number of deceased football stars. In August, a Boston University study diagnosed CTE in 110 out of 111 deceased former NFL players as part of the biggest ever case series on the disease.