NFL Ratings For AFC and NFC Title Games Hit Nine Year Low

As the NFL continues to make idiotic decisions and alienate its fan base — seriously, look at the ad below that the NFL refused to include in its Super Bowl program because it was “too political” — ratings continue to dive off a cliff.

You can hear me talk about this NFL decision and the playoff ratings decline here:

But before we get to that ratings collapse, I want you to look at the ad that the NFL rejected for its game program. The NFL looked at this ad and deemed it too political, really.

Yet the NBA, NHL, and NASCAR have all run this ad from one of the nation’s largest veteran groups without any issues at all. Do you know why? Because the stadiums and arenas where teams play ask you to please stand for the national anthem when you attend games at their venues. That’s how uncontroversial this ad is, it just puts into words what the teams are already asking their fans to do.

The NFL could have allowed this ad and no one would have even noticed it inside the Super Bowl program. Instead they refused to run the ad, while citing the ridiculous excuse that it was too political — the NFL players, halftime entertainers and prior ads have been way more political than this — and the ad is receiving far more attention than it otherwise would have.

Here was the NFL’s official explanation on why it banned the ad.

So the NFL’s position is that its players not standing for the national anthem is permissible and not political, but a veteran’s group requesting that fans stand for the anthem is too political?

Talk about hypocritical.

It’s a decision that Outkick fans are roundly rejecting. In fact, I’m not sure we’ve ever run a Twitter poll with a more decisive outcome. Right now with over 25k votes cast, 89% of you disagree with the NFL’s decision to reject this ad.

I believe the NFL’s incompetent response to the anthem controversy and its refusal to mandate players stand — as the NBA has done without a single issue all year long — has led to a significant decline in TV viewership. Indeed, that TV viewership decline is costing the NFL’s TV partners over $500 million off projected budgets this year.

So what happened last weekend with the AFC and NFC title games?

The AFC and NFC title games hit a nine year low when you combine total viewers for both games. More alarmingly for the NFL, the ratings have declined nearly 20% for those games since 2014.

Here are those numbers of total viewers:

2018 86.4 million viewers

2017 94.3 million viewers

2016 91.9 million viewers

2015 91.9 million viewers

2014 107.2 million viewers

2013 89.7 million viewers

2012 106.3 million viewers

2011 106.8 million viewers

2010 104.8 million viewers

2009 79 million viewers

2008 98.7 million viewers

2007 90 million viewers

The NFL’s overall ratings were down 8.4% this year for the AFC and NFC title games. That follows a 16% decline for the divisional round playoff games, a 13% decline for the NFL wild card playoff games, and a 9.7% decline for the regular season in general.

Now you can argue, as many NFL ratings apologists wish to do, that the reason for the NFL’s ratings decline is larger societal trends — cord cutting, illegal streaming, a decline in traditional TV viewership, poor match ups in the playoffs, you name it — and not the politicization of football which has alienated the core football audience. But if all that is true, why were college football playoff ratings up double digits on cable this year? And it’s not like the college football match up was a ratings goldmine, the title game was an intraconference game between two SEC teams and the other two schools in the playoff, Clemson and Oklahoma, were Southern teams too. There was no Big Ten or Pac 12 playoff team at all. This was far from a perfect ratings match up for the college football playoff.

If the cord cutting and illegal streaming headwinds are difficult to overcome, shouldn’t a cable network like ESPN have even more difficulty bringing in a double digit audience increase for the college football playoff on cable with less than ideal teams playing than the NFL should for its playoff games on broadcast television? And why would NBA regular season ratings be up, with most of the games on cable, while the NFL ratings are down too?

Audiences aren’t abandoning all of sports this year, they’re just abandoning the NFL.

And I think that’s because the NFL’s audience, many of whom are conservative, are upset with the NFL’s left wing political tilt and failure to address the anthem controversy for the past two years.

This alienation of conservative viewers is going to be even more exacerbated by the idiotic decision of the league to reject this ad from a veteran’s group.

Look, I love football and I’m never going to stop watching no matter what the league or players do to voice their politics, but it’s clear that millions of NFL fans don’t believe the league has done a very good job protecting the shield and will choose to find other ways to spend their time and money until the league remedies this issue.

At some point the NFL needs to admit that it blew it responding to the anthem controversy and mandate all players stand for the national anthem.

Contrary to most media coverage it’s not remotely controversial for an employer to insist that when you are on the job wearing its uniform you don’t have the right to make political statements.

In fact, no employees wearing uniforms and on the job in America today — not military, police officers, McDonald’s, Wal Mart, Amazon, Fed Ex or UPS workers — can wear a uniform on the job and make political statements that hurt their employers bottom line.

All of these employers would immediately fire any employee who chose to make political statements in uniform while on the job and refused to stop doing so.

So why should football players be able to do it in their uniforms while on the job?

They shouldn’t.

The NFL’s failure to eliminate all on field in uniform on the job protesting has allow politics to overtake football as the number one story in the league for the past two years.

That needs to end.

But until it does, the NFL can’t pick sides and let players make political statements while banning the speech of veteran’s groups who wish to oppose that speech. That’s picking sides, promoting one form of political speech over another.

Either allow everyone to comment on the national anthem controversy or allow none, be consistent.

Or keep doing what you’re doing now and watch your core audience abandon your league.

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