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11 Sep, 2020 20:59

NFL opener ratings tumble to 10-YEAR LOW, despite pent-up demand for football on TV, as league pays price for politicizing sport

NFL opener ratings tumble to 10-YEAR LOW, despite pent-up demand for football on TV, as league pays price for politicizing sport

Television ratings for the NFL season opener dropped 16 percent from 2019's opening game, sliding to a 10-year low, marking the first real test of fan response to the league's increasingly woke social activism.

Thursday night's game between defending NFL champions the Kansas City Chiefs and last year's AFC South winner, the Houston Texans, drew 16.4 million viewers among adults aged 18-49, Deadline reported. The ratings figures are preliminary, but if they hold at that level when final figures are released, they will be down by millions of fans from last year's opener between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

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Total viewership on NBC and digital platforms was 20.3 million, down from 22.7 million last year, Reuters reported, citing a preliminary NBC estimate.

Viewership in the key demographic was pegged at its lowest level since 2010, despite the NFL playing no preseason games this year and a diminished college season leaving sports fans starved for football to watch amid the Covid-19 pandemic. But with the NFL promoting Black Lives Matter and politicizing its product, many fans have vowed to never again watch the league's games.

Although attendance at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium was limited on Thursday to just 17,000 – less than 25 percent of a normal gameday crowd – because of social distancing, boos could be heard as players and coaches from both teams locked arms before the game for a moment of silence to show solidarity in protesting against racism and social injustice.

The Texans stayed in their locker room as the national anthem was played, while at least one Chiefs player knelt. A so-called ‘black national anthem’‘Lift Ev'ry Voice’ – was also played. Social justice messages were displayed on the scoreboard, and the phrases “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” were painted in the end zones.

Players were allowed to put decals with the names of alleged victims of racial injustice, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, on their helmets.

Some Twitter users said they have no desire to watch football if the sport is made political. “They made it political with all of their virtue signaling and genuflecting,” one observer said. “Perhaps the fans wanted to take a break from the 24/7 social justice crusade being shoved down their throats and watch some football.”

While many fans have been turned off, advertisers are fully on board with the league. Commercial slots for Thursday's game were sold out at an average cost of $900,000 for 30 seconds, ProFootballTalk reported, citing an NBC official. Major corporations such as Microsoft and Nike have supported the BLM movement.

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