POLL: Fans who are watching fewer NFL games cite national anthem protests as primary reason

Posted at 10:38 AM, Oct 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-20 13:38:12-04

The national anthem protest spearheaded by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has ignited a national debate about race relations -- but it has also apparently been responsible for the recent dip in NFL ratings.

In a new survey of over 1,100 NFL fans conducted by Yahoo Sports and YouGov, 29 percent said they are watching fewer NFL games this season. Among that group, 40 percent cited national anthem protests as a reason for their decision to watch less. Altogether, this group accounts for 12 percent of all NFL fans surveyed.

However, Yahoo's Jay Busbee noted this number "is a sharp, though very much expected, decline from the 44 percent who claimed in a similar Yahoo study in early September that they would stop watching if protests continued."

Among those surveyed, other reasons for tuning in to fewer football games include a lack of opportunity to watch (31 percent), a general lack of interest (28 percent) and the presidential election (17 percent).

"Interestingly, 27 percent said they were watching more, though that does not necessarily correlate only a 2 percent net loss," Busbee wrote.

A sizable number of respondents said they would cut back on other sports if national anthem protests spread: 31 percent said they would watch less hockey, 28 percent would watch less baseball and 17 percent would watch less NBA.

The poll revealed a large division in opinion based on age and race.

"More than half, 53 percent, of respondents 55 and over who said they are watching fewer games cited Kaepernick as the reason, while only 13 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 pointed to the protests as their reason for watching less football," Busbee wrote. 

Also, "5 percent of white respondents support Kaepernick, while 55 percent oppose. Sixty-two percent of black respondents support Kaepernick, while 5 percent oppose his stance."

NFL ratings declined by 15 percent in the first five weeks of the 2016 season compared to last season, the Washington Post reported.

On Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he doesn't think anthem protests have been a reason for the decline. "We don't think that's a factor and our network partners don't, either," he said, according to