By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick certainly believes in the cause he is ennobling by kneeling during the national anthem before games, but he doesn’t understand why his protests would turn fans away from their TVs.

The NFL’s sharp ratings decline has been one of the biggest hot-button issues in sports since the start of the 2016 season, and there is undoubtedly a myriad of reasons as to the causes. One of the major underlying factors across the league is the weakened on-field product and increasingly unwatchable broadcasts, bogged down by excessive commercials and penalty flags. But there is a vocal group of fans who took Kaepernick’s demonstrations as a sign of disrespect to the American flag, many of whom consider sacred. Many of these fans have turned away from the NFL, some of them permanently.

When asked about the NFL’s ratings decline and whether he feels his actions have been a cause of it, Kaepernick sounded incredulous – but admitted that he doesn’t understand how ratings work in the first place.

“I don’t know much about ratings and how they are affected and all of those things,” said Kaepernick, according to the Sacramento Bee. “But I don’t understand why ratings would go down, fighting for justice for people, to try to stop oppression, especially in a league that is predominantly black.”

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers kneels on the sideline during the anthem prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys on October 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers kneels on the sideline during the anthem prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys on October 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

However noble the cause Kaepernick is attempting to promote, he should at least understand that such a prominent demonstration would be polarizing for NFL viewers, many of which would view protesting during the national anthem as at best counterproductive and at worst disrespectful or ungrateful toward his country.

A new poll conducted by Yahoo! surveyed 1,136 Americans who identified as NFL fans, 29 percent of which said they are watching fewer NFL games in 2016 than they did in 2015. Forty percent of those viewers cited Kaepernick’s national anthem protests as the reason they stopped watching, which shakes out to about 11.6 percent of all fans surveyed. The NFL’s collective ratings are down by about 11 percent in 2016 as compared to 2015, as of Week 7.

Thirty-one percent cited “lack of opportunity” to watch games while 29 percent cited “lack of interest,” which would go back to the league’s watered-down product. Seventeen percent of fans watching less football cited presidential election coverage as the reason why.

As much as Kaepernick has a right to demonstrate and express his beliefs, the fans who disagree with the way he has gone about his protests also have the right to change the channel or boycott the NFL and its sponsors entirely. Even if the effect his protests have had on the ratings is negligible, the NFL has nonetheless turned off a segment of Americans who once viewed Sundays as a day dominated by football. The anthem protests and the subsequent backlash may not be the primary cause of the ratings decline, but at this point, it’s hard to dismiss it as a total non-factor.

Between the politicizing of sports and the broadcasts themselves becoming less watchable every week, the league will need to make serious changes if it wants to get its ratings back to where they were last season, let alone make them continue to grow.

Kaepernick and the 49ers play the Patriots on Nov. 20 in Week 11. It’s highly likely that he will again kneel during the national anthem before that game, and that the NFL’s ratings will still be in a freefall.

Matt Dolloff is a writer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at

Comments (36)
  1. naro says:

    I wouldn’t blame Kampernik alone. TV Football is a game that is so inundated and overwhelmed with commercials that it is really impossible to watch. The ads are loud, obnoxious, insulting and demeaning to the viewers, and are such a painful assault on the brain. TV sports should provide relaxation and enjoyment, but the unbelievable numbers of commercials completely counteract the enjoyment and relaxation. I tried to watch three different games, but couldn’t take it because of the incessant commercial interruptions.

    The NFL and the networks should fund a study on the damaging effects of their commercials on the viewers. We can take a few commercials but not the volume that they present now.

  2. Kim says:

    You are so biased! How about that women are leaving in droves because the NFL says its OK TO BEAT WOMEN?! How about that the players are penalized for celebrating what WE pay them to do, which is score?! How about women are sick of being pandered to, looked at as a revenue stream? For me, it has NOTHING to with Kaepernick, not all all.

    1. KIMs an IDIOT says:

      Umm.., actually after retiring from the Army after 25 years on Active Duty, my family and I will never watch these fools disrespect our flag and our country. Kim needs to take a beating to understand this apparently.

  3. The NFL is basically one long insurance commercial with football breaks.

  4. PeterOwen says:

    Shouldn’t it be the NFL has no idea why they’re hurting their own ratings?

  5. A J Squaredaway, USMC says:

    Until the NFL gets this disrespect for my country and my flag under control, I will not watch another NFL football game, and will avoid using its sponsors products. I served in the US military to give him a right to protest. In like manner, I can protest his actions and that of the NFL that support him..

    1. Jim says:

      Very well said and thank you for your service!

  6. 12know says:

    Most sports fans are patriotic. They see Kaepernick’s kneeling when the anthem is played as an insult to our country’s heritage. Yes, there is injustice in our country, as there is in every country in the world. But for the people who gave their lives for the U.S., it’s a disgrace and a slap in the face to them. How much more sacrifice can a person give than their life? Notice that all the people “taking a knee” to the anthem are African American. For those who are making good money, and the NFL players are definitely making good money, they have no gripe as they are living the American dream. I don’t believe for a minute that Kaepernick’s actions are noble. He’s simply been brainwashed by Harry Edwards, a known white hater. I hope that by the end of the season, the 49ers kick Kaepernick off the team.

  7. Richard says:

    Kaepernick is America’s public idiot. He claims to be doing his kneeling stunt to protest unfairness, yet he prances around with “pig” socks on, putting a negative label on all police. Is that fair? He speaks and looks like an idiot as well.
    When criminals are terrorizing , stealing, or hurting you……Call 1-800- Kapjerk

  8. Kim says:

    You so called patriots are a bunch of racists. How about taking your flag shirts, which are against the flag rules of the US btw and crawl back under the rocks you came from? You are confusing the issues with your stupidity.

    1. Phil Bundy says:

      You haven’t a clue to what the issue is

  9. Kim says:

    Oh yea and while you’re at it how about taking all the wife beaters with you? THATS WHY WE ARENT WATCHING! Not a peaceful man trying to help others.

  10. Joe Smith says:

    SJW Colin Kaepernick is also helping to finish off the once proud San Francisco 49ers football club by adding massive distractions to bad ownership and bad coaching, a toxic stew for a football team if there ever was one.

  11. Michael Pitts says:

    shave that head and go back to TRYING to throw a football. I think it’s an appalling lack of respect.

  12. Cyndi Parker says:

    He doesn’t understand the public reactions, I don’t understand why we continue asking..him

  13. Cr Rhino says:

    As soon as the NFL takes a stand on the disrespect of our flag I’ll be back…..if I can stay away from my new ATV. I followed Kap thru NV and into the pros, really too bad how he turned out. Hopefully the NBA does not screw up too.

  14. TomPayne says:

    Kaepernick probably also doesn’t get why he sucks. However, they are both facts. He and his team suck; AND his antics ARE AFFECTING NFL ratings! The NFL is in some MAJOR denial. I have not watched an NFL game since all these self-centered overpaid hypocrites began this protest. I am a firm believer in the First Amendment, BUT it doesn’t apply when you are in someone else’s uniform, in someone else’s venue, on someone else’s time. If I were to wear my employer’s uniform, and stand on their property and spew what many perceive as ridiculous propaganda, I would LOSE MY JOB. Look at the second amendment. If I went into a shopping mall with a firearm, I would be arrested. I could cry and whine that it is my 2nd amendment right, but then I will be told that there are rules that must be followed. The first amendment is NOT carte blanche! There are rules that MUST be followed. They can do it on their own time, BUT NOT AT WORK!

    I applaud the fans that BOOED the ECU Marching Band for their silly antics. Again, the band members are in someone else’s uniform, in someone else’s venue, on someone else’s time. College Protesters have a double whammy because many are funded by taxpayers, scholarships and Alumni contributions, and THEY want no part of the protest. As we saw with ECU and UNL, financial contributors are threatening to pull funds. I agree that college folks like Michael Rose-Ivey have a right to make their point heard. There is, however, a time and place for it. They also need to keep in mind that many NFL owners either served in the military or had family that did, and THEY may be offended by these actions, hence, bye-bye big contracts!!!

  15. craig says:

    Kaepernick has a right to take a knee. It is, however, disrespectful and angers a lot of people who have and still are sacrificing a lot for what that flag stands for. I have the right to stand for the National Anthem and am proud of it. If you are too, go to and show your support.

  16. S.D. says:

    I’ve watched the NFL for over 40 years – pretty much anytime it is on. It is entertainment and a way to get away from everyday things. When the entertainers make it a personal protest and the leadership of the entertainment company allow it – the event is no longer the get away. I’ve not watched an NFL game this year – solely because of these protests. It would be the same if I went to the theater and the actors put on a personal protest – I’d quit going. Apparently I’m not alone as the ratings continue to drop. As to the protest itself – blacks are about 14% of the population. Any group that is only 14% of the population is going to feel oppressed. As to the excessive police force on blacks – 494 white males were killed in police altercations in 2015. Can anybody name one? Anyhow, many aren’t watching the NFL because of the protests – whether the NFL wants to recognize that or not.

  17. Joe Gerace says:

    We stopped watching NFL when the disrespect started.
    No more jerseys as gifts. We still enjoy our Sundays, just doesn’t include NFL. Your loss.

  18. Bob Mixter says:

    Like many who have stopped watching, I served my Country, and I love that flag; I get a lump in my throat when I hear the National Anthem. Many of my brothers and sisters (of all races) have paid the ultimate price for this free land. If the NFL wont put them on their feet during the National Anthem, then I wont put their game on my television, their shirts on my back or my butt in the stadium.

  19. Jeff says:

    I will never purchase any more nfl merchandise again and will never watch another game because of the anthem protests. They no longer exist to me.

    The NFL, ESPN, and everybody else can pretend to scratch their heads as to why ratings have plunged ……ANTHEM PROTESTS.

    They can go apply for unemployment insurance on one knee before long or rot in hell, I don’t care either way.

  20. AlanB says:

    This idiot’s fro has grown over his tiny brain.

  21. Tasker John says:

    Overpaid adolescents playing a child’s game. Real men serve their country in an honorable, productive capacity, whether military, law enforcement, medical services, volunteer work, manufacturing or services. Entertainers are children or professional liars (actors/politicians).

  22. It is sort of like when the Dixie Chicks went to England and played politics by essentially saying she was ashamed to be an American. Most liberals are.

    It is absolutely ludicrous for a black person making $10 million dollars a year, owning a huge house, driving a beautiful expensive car, owning hundreds of pair of sneakers, and having a beautiful wife and children would complain about oppression by ‘protesting’ for 2-3 minutes every Sunday. Rosa Parks would slap him up side the head. The students in Greensboro would have laughed in his face at his ‘protest’. Many, many other black people who stood up for their rights and risked their lives to do so wouldn’t have given this man the time of day. They risked their lives. He didn’t risk even one of those hundreds of sneakers he has lined up in his garage.

    And that’s why I do not watch NFL football. When privilege gets labeled as oppression, count me out.

  23. I’ve gone from watching 5 NFL games a week to watching none of them. I will not turn on another NFL game until Goodell reigns in the anti-American protests. This has gone on too long and the NFL’s refusal to get these anti-American protesters under control shows that Goodell and the NFL agrees with their protest.

    Let’s see how they keep blaming the election after November 8.

  24. Floyd Smoot says:

    From what I’ve been able to see, the ratings drop is the ONLY thing which has come out of his protests. That, and other thugs jumping on the bandwagon, which causes a similar drop for their respective events. I have yet to see a single meaningful discussion, let alone any actions towards improving the situation as a direct result of his protests.
    The fun part will be when he finally admits defeat and has to backpedal on his own actions to get past this. He didn’t put any thought into this, chose unwisely, and now has no exit strategy. He will not be able to point to anything to show what he has accomplished, but will simply have to give up. Or perhaps he plans to take a knee for the rest of his career?
    And as far as the broadcasters go, it has become the moral equivalent of waiting for the groundhog to see his shadow. To them, it’s simply an entertaining spectacle, with no reason for further discussion. They are so clueless, they don’t realize they have been complicit in fanning the fires of hatred towards the product they created.

  25. Gene Smith says:

    That boy is as dumb as a sack of hammers.

  26. Ken Long says:

    so despite millions of words expressed by people explaining why they consider his actions disrespectful to their values, he cant understand why ratings are going down? I guess he really IS dumb. #BoycittNFL

  27. Phil Bundy says:

    Most my friends as well as myself have stopped watching the NFL this year and it was most definitely Kaepernick who lit that match. Black middle and high schoolers all across the nation are not standing for the flag because of Kaepernig. The 49ers should have told him to stand or stay home and last I heard sales of 49er gear overall was down 19% but Kaep’s sales were way up. That’s because when the NFL is gone and history looks back on when it first turned south…. It will be Kaep that marks that point in time.

  28. If he were kept out of the stadiums on a few game days, you might see an increase in viewers.

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