NFL TV Ratings Down; Fans Cite a Host of Factors, Led by National Anthem Protests

Seven Possible Reasons for Flagging NFL Ratings Resonate with the Public

South Orange, NJ, October 27, 2016 — Viewership for NFL games is down approximately 12% this season, sending league and club officials in search of reasons. A Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this week asked people to identify factors accounting for the drop.

Each question was asked separately, allowing for a yes, no or don’t know response.   Thus, respondents could weigh in on each of the seven possibilities as a contributing factor without identifying one single factor.

The leading factor – the one receiving the most “yesses” – was players not standing for the national anthem. However, the seven factors all evoked a large number of yes responses, so that even the least chosen, at 33%, represents a lot of fans.

56% of respondents cited players not standing for the anthem, with 50% citing the distraction of the presidential campaign and 47% the controversy over the handling of domestic violence cases involving players.

On the question of domestic violence, men and women responded equally; 47% of men cited that as a possible reason, 46% of women said yes to that possibility.

Other factors included games on too many days, over-saturating the market (44%), increased interest in post-season baseball (39%), the ongoing controversy over head injuries (33%) and a decline in quality of play on the field (33%).

A total of 841 adults across the US (on landlines and cellphones) participated in the poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 3.4%. The poll was conducted October 24-26.

“Only a third cited quality of play and head injuries,” said Rick Gentile, director of the Poll, which is sponsored by The Sharkey Institute. “Perhaps the league can take some solace in that, although a third is still a lot of people. But it is somewhat remarkable that the impact of the national anthem protest seems to hold, given that the action occurs pre-game and isn’t even televised.”

Rick Gentile will be interviewed by Seth Everett for a podcast on the poll’s findings.


About the poll:

This poll was conducted by telephone October 24-26 among 841 adults in the United States. The Seton Hall Sports Poll is conducted by the Sharkey Institute.

Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The Seton Hall Sports Poll has been conducted regularly since 2006.

Media: Media: Marty Appel Public Relations,
or Michael Ricciardelli, Associate Director of Media Relations, Seton Hall University,


One of the country’s leading Catholic universities, Seton Hall University has been a catalyst for leadership — developing students in mind, heart and spirit — since 1856. Home to nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offering more than 90 academic programs, Seton Hall’s academic excellence has been singled out for distinction by The Princeton Review, U.S.News & World Report and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Seton Hall, which embraces students of all religions, prepares its graduates to be exemplary servant leaders and global citizens. Its attractive main campus is located in suburban South Orange, New Jersey, and is only 14 miles by train, bus or car from New York City, offering a wealth of employment, internship, cultural and entertainment opportunities. The university’s nationally recognized School of Law is prominently located in downtown Newark.

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11 thoughts on “NFL TV Ratings Down; Fans Cite a Host of Factors, Led by National Anthem Protests

  1. Big Mike

    Have been a football fan for 40 plus years but I will not be watching today or any other day. I will no longer purchase game tickets or hats or jerseys. The fans vote with their dollars the NFL wont be receiving any more of mine. My son and his family are doing the same. We both are dropping the NFL Ticket. Its been fun but I can find other things to do.

  2. Jerry Vogel

    When I became of age so to speak; one of the first things my male mentors reinforced to me is that you do not shit in your work space before you begin. Defininive proof of brain damage in the NFL. I’m done.

  3. B

    The only reason these players are able to make more money than most folks on to planet is because our military and police fought for their freedom. How DARE they be disrespectful! They should be fired from the team, and then deported. Let’s see how they like being robbed and shot while unprotected in another country!


    Im Too F*&%&*$$ poor to watch a bunch a rich a$$ players run around throwing a ball and getting paid obscene salaries and the teams owned by filthy rich non tax paying sitting on every corporation board member worthless billionaire$ mother f543456 that vote to not pay me any dividend$ on stock$ and addtionally own everything and cook the books and get stadiums built for free no getting mother%$#&$ can KISS MY A$%$
    Thats why I dont watch the NF FUc&^$% L

    Its a shame these bastards are breathing all my air !

  5. Abc

    It is distasteful that players think our military is responsible for the extremely rare rogue officer shootings. I mean why else would they protest the national anthem?

    And standing with the fists raised is a black panther thing. The black panthers are a racist org. How would the players feel if whites donned KKK gear for the anthem?

    I am a woman, and thus I understand the plight of the less considered. But the means are not justified. And BTW women got their right to vote AFTER black males and it’s still quite fine for religious orgs, including black ones to discriminate against us. We are the last refuge of true bigotry, and so this opinion comes from someone who has a handle on prejudice.

  6. Rick Azar

    Mixing Politics and Sports was never a good idea…and the reason for many failed friendships.
    Political arguments usually end in silence. Sports arguments usually end with a drink at the bar.
    The choice is easy…and I don’t drink anything much harder than cider.


  7. Dick

    I am another who has put the NFL on a shelf in the basement closet, and it is going to stay believe me, I can tell you that.

    The reason:
    Disrespectful, ignorant players deciding they are bigger and more important than our national anthem ……… shame, shame on these pathetic children.

  8. Juan

    I have watched the NFL for over 40 years, and I have not watched a single game this year for one reason only: disrespectful, ignorant players who get paid millions to play a game and who have decided to make it into a political soapbox. Ignorant because they can’t quite see the irony that they LIVE one of the greatest examples of people from diverse backgrounds uniting as one to work together towards a common objective (The military is another example.) Celebrate unity? No, these “players” choose a device of unity, the National Anthem, to divide. Anybody remember what the “N” in NFL stands for?

  9. Hof Brau

    This poll only has significant validity if those polled had decreased/stopped their viewing of NFL games this year (if that wasn’t the first question with further questions dependent on their answer to that question, again, this poll is nearly useless)

    Asking “anyone” what they BELIEVE the reasons “anyone” may/has decreased/stopped watching this season doesnt provide any further information as to why those that ACTUALLY have stopped/decreaed watching have done so.

    Utter polling fail.

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