Just two years ago, the NFL was an unstoppable force with record viewership and revenue. But now, the league is in a major decline. The full effect that the last two seasons have had on the league are now being realized.
What's going on?
It all began in preseason 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and systemic racism in the U.S. There were protests and some ratings decline because of the kneeling protests, but by the end of the season, the controversy had smoothed over.
But then President Donald Trump inserted himself into the controversy early in the 2017 season, which caused more players to kneel and more Americans to boycott the league. This led to decreased ticket sales, decreased viewership, decreased popularity and finally, decreased revenue.
According to OutKick the Coverage, the league and its TV partners — CBS, Fox Sports, ESPN and NBC — have already lost hundreds of millions of dollars this season. Ratings have dropped overall by 20 percent since 2015, the site reported.
But it gets even worse: the TV partners are on track to lose $500 million this year alone.
But are the protests solely to blame?
In addition to the national anthem protests, which have played a major part in the NFL's decline this year, NFL expert Clay Travis attributed the steep decline to:
- The end of the one kickoff window in the east on Sundays. Previously, the NFL had set kickoff times on Sunday. Now, the games played at those times typically aren't the best, while the better games are pushed to Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night and internationally.
- Bad football: "Put plainly, the NFL is often putting a poor product on the field and NFL fans are choosing to spend their time doing something else."
- Two teams in Los Angeles: "While the NFL spent a great deal of time celebrating its return to the nation’s second largest city the reality is this, the Rams and the Chargers have brought down television ratings in Los Angeles, costing the league’s TV partners tens of millions of dollars in tenths of ratings points by themselves."
This story has been updated.