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Are National Anthem Protests Causing The NFL’s TV Ratings To Drop?

Has Colin Kaepernick brought the NFL to its knees by kneeling during the national anthem? Yes, according to some hyperventilating journalists and columnists. But I’m not so sure.

Television ratings for the first month of NFL games are reportedly down significantly from previous years with the season’s first Sunday night game posting the lowest numbers in seven years. Why? Forbes magazine claims to have the answer.

The magazine recently ran a piece citing a poll in which one-third of the fans interviewed said they were “less likely” to watch the NFL on TV because of the Kaepernick-inspired player protests against racial injustice that have taken place in stadiums across the country.

Forbes writer Mike Ozanian says flatly, “It is starting to look like disrespecting the country during the national anthem is accomplishing what the concussions, domestic violence and deflategate could not do–drive down television ratings for the National Football League.”

Ozanian cavalierly dismisses an advertising executive’s theory that a lack of marquee games and hot superstars is the real culprit for the ratings dip.

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Well, we’re all entitled to our opinions. But as my first grader recently shared on the ride home from school, “Daddy, you have to have two or three facts to make people believe your opinion. “

Forbes has none.

That poll? Honestly, I’m surprised only 1/3 of the respondents said they were less likely to watch the NFL in the wake of the protests. People often give pollsters the answer they believe makes themselves look good –whether the answer is true or not. How would you answer if someone called your house and asked your response to an action that is widely depicted as anti-American? That said, 13% of those surveyed did claim they were more likely to watch the NFL in the wake of the protests.

Please understand, I’m not defending these players. I think Kaepernick and his fellow protestors are misguided in their attempt to bring attention to their cause. We Americans are rightly proud and tend to believe in the nation of “Our country, right or wrong.” Those with a grievance seldom gain traction by appearing to disrespect the United States or its symbols.

I suspect these protests also annoy Americans because practically every form of entertainment has now been tainted by politics. We turn to football, late night TV and Hollywood to escape from the stress of life in our terribly divided country – not to hear more about our differences.

And we need an evenhanded media committed to facts and analysis to help us navigate our crazy real world. Forbes failed us on the NFL ratings story. Just a reminder that we need to read and think critically for ourselves when forming opinions on controversial events.

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Cover image: Stephen Brashear/AP

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