NFL viewer ratings are down 9 percent overall across all networks, during a season when the league and players have been feuding with President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE over their right to protest during the national anthem.
Sunday night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, which aired on NBC, was down 35 percent in viewers from a similarly timed game last year, CNN reported.
Ratings have been dropping since the season began, spurred by Trump's comments at a rally in which he suggested boycotting teams with players who don’t stand for the national anthem.
Players responded to those comments with a show of solidarity, with entire teams either locking arms or kneeling during the anthem. Ravens and Steelers players have been among those making symbolic statements this season. The NFL has refused to implement a rule requiring players to stand.
CNN noted that NBC, CBS and ESPN football ratings are all down. Fox was the only network with higher ratings compared to last year, according to CNN.
Trump touted the low ratings in September, shortly after his original comments.
“Ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!” he tweeted.
As a presidential candidate, Trump blasted NFL player Colin Kaepernick throughout the campaign for kneeling during the anthem to protest racial inequity in the U.S. Then, in September, Trump suggested at a rally in Alabama that teams and the league should ensure consequences for players who kneel.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired,' " Trump said.
Since then, polling suggests the NFL’s favorability has fallen dramatically, even among males aged 34-54, a key demographic. The NFL went from 73 percent favorable in August to 42 percent favorable in September among that group, according to the Winston Group. Since those surveyed were not asked their reasons, some have speculated that football fans are protesting political influence in sports.
Scattered players from various teams have continued to kneel during the anthem heading into Week 15.