In September 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was at the forefront of the social justice movement in the NFL. By October of that year, NFL viewership was down by 11%. Could that happen this season as well?
In the 2020 season, the NFL stated that the Black National Anthem will play before the US National Anthem during Week 1. The song “Lift Every Voice And Sing” is often quoted as the Black National Anthem due to its significant role in black culture.
While many people see this as the next step to fight racial inequality, there are some who see it as an overreaction from the league in order to compensate for past mistakes in handling the controversial topic.
Fans feel that NFLs TV ratings are sure to drop this season, owing to NFLs attempt to promote social justice messages. The NBA has already suffered from a 20% rating decline from previous season as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has been promoted left, right and centre by the NBA.
With the NFL too deciding to go down that road, they can expect a rating decline in the range of 15-20%. Moreover, NFLs history too suggests that when players take a knee, it does affect its ratings to a certain extent.
What happened in the 2016 season when Colin Kaepernick took a knee?
In the 2016 preseason, Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel for the national anthem. This was widely unnoticed with Eric Reid being the only other player to “take a knee” in the last game of the preseason.
Then some things began to change in Week 1 of the regular season. 11 NFL players have joined him in protest of racial injustice that was present in the country. That number increased throughout the league as more and more players were joining the fight to eradicate police brutality and racism.
But reports and surveys showed that although many players were taking a stand on racism, it was affecting viewership in a negative way. In Week 4 of the 2016 season, ratings were down by 11%. An internal memo from NFL Media showed that the cause for this may be due to the presidential election
Internal NFL memo sent to address concern as to why ratings this season are so far down 11% pic.twitter.com/SitMveCr8q
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 7, 2016
However, studies have shown that there may be a different story. A telephone questionnaire showed that 32% are less likely to watch an NFL game due to the protests going on.
League executives disagreed on these stances. “There is no evidence that concern over player protests during the national anthem is having any material impact on our ratings. In fact, our own data shows that perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016,” executives wrote in the memo.
How will the NFL ratings decline in 2020?
In 2020, the NFL admitted to making a mistake and that they will fight for racial equality. The league will be introducing the Black National Anthem during Week 1 of the 2020 season. Many supporters of this move have thought this to be the next step to fight racism. However there is some backlash to this as well.
What will be the repercussions?
The 2020 season is still in its infancy. There is still no deciding factor as to if the Black National Anthem will cause negative ratings. But there are some fans who aren’t happy with the new move.
Don’t blame Covid-19 when the ratings are down. Support whatever you want off the field, but don’t force it upon your fans during games. Stand for the flag, respect your country, play ball, and represent whatever you like off the field
— Willy (@Willy42410210) September 10, 2020
The NFL will just have to see if this move in the fight for racial inequality will be met with as much criticism as it was in the 2016 season.