The NFL fumbled in the ratings for the season kickoff of CBS’ Thursday Night Football last night, further confirming that players protesting the national anthem have angered fans to the point of tuning out.
Despite a fairly tense game where the presence of lightning forced a 47-minute delay in the first quarter, CBS had a horrible night in ratings; a full 13% drop from last year's Thursday Night Football debut.
The numbers are appropriate, and the Packers did little to help get people excited by stirring up even more controversy when they invited their already-agitated fans to actually join in on their childish protest of the national anthem.
In a statement released earlier this week, the Packers asked fans to participate in the #TakeaKnee protest at Lambeau Field before their game against the Chicago Bears. They wrote:
Packers players, coaches and staff will join together with arms intertwined — connected like the threads on your favorite jersey. … It will represent a coming together of players who want the same things that all of us do — freedom, equality, tolerance, understanding, and justice for those who have been unjustly treated, discriminated against or otherwise treated unfairly. … Join us this Thursday by locking arms with whoever you’re with, stranger or loved one, wherever you are—intertwined and included—in this moment of unification.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, "We've got to come together and talk about these things and grow as a community, as a connected group of individuals in our society. We're going to continue to show love and unity, and this week, we're going to ask the fans to join in as well and come together and show people that we can be connected and we can grow together."
The fans showed neither love nor unity to the Packers on Thursday night, opting to tune out rather than watch them lock arm-in-arm like a couple of whiny victims as The Star-Spangled Banner played.
Deadline proflied the severity of such a significant drop in ratings:
On a night of no competition from the other nets and with the matchup being shown live on Twitter, last year’s September 15, CBS kickoff game ended up with 15.4 million viewers and a 5.4/21 rating among adults 18-49. The start of the third season of TNFon the House of Moonves, those 2016 numbers were a 27% and 29% fall, respectively, from the 2015 TNF debut on CBS and NFL Network.
As for Thursday’s overnight numbers, the latest decline comes as the league, broadcasters and cable networks are biting already chewed nails over last year’s ratings and what could be coming down the line.
While ratings this year overall are actually up a tiny bit over last year right now, the 2016-2017 NFL season saw a nearly 10% decline from the year before. That’s a big hit for the big-money league, and the sting is being felt again with the likes of heavyweight Sunday Night Football hurting this year.
Some NFL teams see the writing on the wall are scrambling to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the mess. The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Thursday that the entire team will stand for the national anthem this Sunday and will not sit around in the locker room as they did last week.