Poll: 33% of NFL fans say they purposely stopped watching this year

An interesting result, as it raises a question that isn’t often asked about declining NFL ratings. How many people are boycotting because they *agree* with the player protests?

To think, 33 percent of NFL fans missed out on one of the worst quarterbacked playoff games of all time this past Saturday in Jacksonville. If there’s any doubt that Kaepernick’s exile from the league is due partly, or even mostly, to politics rather than ability, go watch game film of Jags/Bills and ask if either team wouldn’t have benefited from having him under center instead of their respective scrub QBs.

In fact, after watching that Alabama/Georgia game last night, either team would have benefited from having Bama’s freshman under center instead.

The survey then asked the football fans: “Did you purposely stop watching or attending NFL games this season for any reason?” 33% of respondents said yes…

They answered as follows: 32% said they stopped watching or attending NFL games “in support of Donald Trump”; 22% said “in solidarity with players kneeling”; 13% said “no interest in the teams playing”; 12% said “in support of Colin Kaepernick”; and 11% said “news about traumatic brain injuries among players.” Another 8% said “games are boring.” 46% chose “some other reason.”

The results also show an interesting difference between male and female respondents: more men said they turned away from the NFL in support of Trump (35% to 25%), while more women said they did it in support of the players kneeling (30% to 17%) or in support of Kaepernick (17% to 10%).

Respondents were allowed to select multiple reasons so obviously some of those who said they were boycotting in support of Kaepernick are also boycotting in solidarity with player protests. The logic of the former is straightforward: If you agree with Kaepernick’s protest and you’re outraged that he’s being blackballed for his politics, one way to punish the league is to deny them ratings. A fan petition entitled “#NoKaepernickNoNFL” has more than 200,000 signatures, in fact. I don’t understand boycotting in solidarity with kneeling players, though. The league is honoring their right to protest; the players themselves aren’t boycotting the games. Lower ratings only hurts their bottom lines. What do those people want Roger Goodell’s office to do that he hasn’t done? Encourage players to kneel?

Another thing: The 33 percent who say they’ve stopped watching clearly don’t mean that they’ve stopped watching altogether. Ratings are down but they’re not down 33 percent. This is probably happening at the margins, with fans more prone to skip snoozefests involving bad teams while still tuning in for the Pats and Steelers. Although if you thought playoff football might reverse the NFL’s fortunes ratings-wise, think again:

— Saints vs. Panthers (Fox Sports): Down 15 percent from last year’s comparable Giants-Packers telecast.

— Titans vs. Chiefs (ESPN/ABC): Down 11 percent from last year’s Texans-Raiders.

— Falcons vs. Rams (NBC Sports): Down 10 percent from last year’s Seahawks-Lions.

— Jaguars vs. Bills (CBS Sports): Down 10 percent from last year’s Steelers-Dolphins.

Ratings in the regular season were down 9.7 percent from the year before. Ratings for last week’s playoff games were down … 11.5 percent, per the Sporting News. The league actually did worse as the postseason began. My hunch is that the fewer marquee names in the first round this year contributed heavily to the damage. Apart from the sexy “Brees vs. Newton” showdown in the New Orleans/Carolina game, you had six teams without national followings or many star players, most of which haven’t been anywhere near a Super Bowl for years. (The less said about the one exception, the Falcons, the better.) Last year, as noted, the Steelers were in the mix in the first round as were the Raiders, the Russell Wilson/Richard Sherman Seahawks, and two teams with huge fan bases in the Giants and Packers. In this year’s first round, the only teams to have won a Super Bowl since Richard Nixon was president were the Saints and Rams, and we’re nearly 20 years removed from the latter’s victory.

No worries, though. The always exciting Divisional Round is coming up! There’s, uh, the no-name Titans against Brady and the Patriots. There’s the Jags and their pitiful QB against the Steelers. (I know, I know, they beat Pittsburgh in October.) There’s last year’s Super Bowl chokers against a Wentz-less Eagles team. Annnnd there’s Brees and the Saints against a Vikings team quarterbacked by Case “Who?” Keenum. How do you suppose those ratings will do? If Goodell doesn’t get a Steelers/Patriots AFC Championship he might commit seppuku.