The national anthem kneeling fever among NFL players seemed to break on Sunday, as the number of players who kneeled during the anthem diminished dramatically from the prior Sunday.
ESPN reporter Darren Rovell had the numbers:
The numbers are even more striking when looking at the teams that had all players stand:
It remains to be seen if this trend will continue into the following weeks, but there are some possible explanations for the decline in anthem protests.
First, the wave of protests on the prior Sunday were a deliberate act of defiance in reaction to President Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners should fire the “son of b*tch” players who kneel during the anthem. Now that the protest statement against Trump has been made, fewer players seem interested in continuing the “movement.”
However, the more likely explanation is that less players are conducting anthem protests due to the ensuing backlash. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans don’t approve of the protests, with a recent Yahoo Finance poll finding that around 62% of Americans say they won’t watch as much football due to the protests. The ratings for games are also on the decline, as evident here and here.
Even worse, according to CNN’s John King, NFL “owners are now dealing with a surge in ticket holder requests for refunds” following Trump’s suggestion that the owners fire the anthem kneeling players.
It’s becoming clear that if the NFL continues down this road of politicization, it will be to their detriment. Perhaps some owners, like Martha Ford of the Detroit Lions, requested that players refrain from the protest while pledging to pour money into their cause to avoid backlash.
Regardless, the NFL better hope the decline of anthem kneelers continues or else people will start tuning out the sport altogether.