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Is Colin Kaepernick Really The Reason for The NFL’s Ratings Decline?

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As controversial San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick prepares to make his first start since his much-discussed kneeling during the National Anthem, reports are coming out the National Football League is experiencing a slide in television ratings. Some blame Kaepernick for tarnishing the NFL brand.

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On Facebook, perennial presidential candidate Mike Huckabee chastised the “the NFL Commissioner’s mealy-mouthed quasi-endorsement of players imposing their grievance politics onto the game” for ratings that are “dropping like Target’s stock price.”

John Calvin concurred in the American Spectator: “May I be bold enough to suggest that the decline in ratings is primarily due to the NFL’s embrace of several of its players’ repeated blasphemy of our National Anthem prior to each football game? A situation…that the NFL could control if it really wanted to.”

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But are the critics of the NFL—and Kaepernick—right?

The polling firm Rasmussen Reports recently found that “32 percent of Americans say they are less likely to watch an NFL game because of the growing number of Black Lives Matter protests by players on the field.”  The same survey reported that 13 percent of respondents are more likely to watch an NFL game because of the protests, while the majority say it will have no effect.

But the NFL claims that other polling data shows the image of professional football players and the sport is up, despite the viewer decline. Critics scoff that those numbers lie, but seem surprisingly trusting of diminishing ratings polling. If anything, both sides seem to only trust the numbers that confirm their viewpoint.

In fact, the NFL ratings slump predate Kaepernick’s high-profile protest. The decline has been occurring over the last several years, so the argument that the NFL was just doing fine until the quarterback kneeled during the National Anthem isn’t supported by the evidence.

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