You had to be there – 2016, 2017, and 2018, I mean.
In a time in which Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid were leading a growing movement that led to players, coaches, and even some team owners taking a knee in the name of racism and police brutality – fans ran to social media and screamed from the stands about how they would forever shun/boycott the NFL because of the players’ demonstration or due to how Kaepernick and Reid were being blackballed.
It was all a lie.
According to Sports Business Journal, NFL games made up 75 of the 100 most-watched TV programs last year, as no other pro sports league in America cracked the top 100.
The Super Bowl, NFC Championship Game, AFC Championship Game, Raiders/Cowboys on Thanksgiving, and Buccaneers/Saints NFC divisional game made up the Top 5 most-watched programs of 2021. The other sports broadcasts that made the Top 100 were 11 events from the Summer Olympics, seven college football games, and two college basketball games. The NBA, MLB, and NHL didn’t get invites.
So much for that “ratings dip” that Kaepernick caused.
“We did research and it was relatively proprietary research, to be honest with you,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in 2017 about the effect that kneeling had on ratings. “But I think if you look at some of the reasons why NFL viewership was down last year, [kneeling] is a reason that’s mentioned by a fair amount of viewers. It is something they don’t find attractive or they don’t find compelling in coverage of the football game. How big a factor it was? I don’t really know. But it was one of the factors that I think perhaps led to the slight decrease in ratings last year.”
But yet, McManus was smart enough to know that the “reasons” why some weren’t tuning in wouldn’t last.
“Listen, I do think the ratings will come back. But you have to look at this relatively speaking: The NFL ratings are still by far and away the most attractive property in all of television by a huge margin. The fact the ratings were down marginally are of concern, but nobody is panicking and saying that the NFL is slipping in terms of its popularity or in terms of its dominance, relatively speaking to what else is on television.”
Football is as American as racism and voter suppression. It’s why watching the Super Bowl is the only thing that this country does in unison. And when a sport has a grip like that on a country, people are going to always tune in no matter if players are kneeling or standing for a racist song before kickoff.