Fans watching fewer NFL games cite protests as primary reason

Ratings in the NFL, while still stronger than any other challenger on the television landscape, continue to decline, and a new survey by Yahoo Sports and YouGov discerns several reasons why.

In a survey of 1,136 Americans who identified themselves as NFL fans, 29 percent said they are watching fewer NFL games. (Interestingly, 27 percent said they were watching more, though that does not necessarily correlate only a 2 percent net loss.) The fans claiming they watch less of the NFL cited the following reasons:

• Protests by Colin Kaepernick and others
• Lack of opportunity to watch the NFL
• Lost interest in the NFL
• Presidential election

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Worth noting: the 40 percent of the “watching less NFL” group claiming protests as the reason represents 12 percent of all NFL fans. This 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.

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Response to the protests continues to break down along age lines. 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.

Should the protests migrate to other sports, respondents said they would cut back on viewing to the following degrees:

• 17 percent of NBA fans would watch fewer games
• 28 percent of baseball fans would watch fewer games
• 31 percent of hockey fans would watch fewer games

Kaepernick began his protests, in which he knelt or remained seated during the national anthem in order to bring attention to the issue of police violence, during the preseason and continues the protests to this day. Many other players and organizations have joined Kaepernick, but resistance to the protests has been strong as well.

What’s interesting, from a statistical perspective, is that perceptions of Kaepernick’s protest have hardly changed in the past month. In September, 32 percent of respondents supported Kaepernick; in this most recent survey, 33 percent support him. Similarly, 47 percent opposed Kaepernick’s stand in September; 44 percent continue to oppose him.

Support and opposition across racial lines remains extremely close to the September results. In the October survey, 25 percent of white respondents support Kaepernick, while 55 percent oppose. Sixty-two percent of black respondents support Kaepernick, while 5 percent oppose his stance.

YouGov sampled 2,111 adults on Oct. 12 and 13 in online interviews from a pool of 1.2 million individuals. Panelists were selected at random and invited to take part in an undisclosed survey; the results were weighted to match current census statistics of all U.S. adults 18 and over.

Podcast: How much are protests harming the NFL’s ratings?

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.