By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — For most of the 2016 season, the NFL largely blamed the U.S. presidential election for a decline in TV ratings. But with the league’s numbers down another 7.5 percent so far in 2017, amid a growing backlash to players’ national anthem protests, the owners are finally taking the ratings decline seriously.

A new column by The MMQB’s Albert Breer details some of the stats related to the NFL’s dropping TV ratings, and the way it affected a private meeting between players and owners on Tuesday and Wednesday at the NFL League Office in New York. He says the falling TV ratings “might just be the first proof” that the continued “discord” over player protests is negatively impacting everyone’s bottom line.

Due to the ratings figures and the owners’ reaction to them, Breer deduced that recent comments made by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones – which threatened to punish players who do not stand during the national anthem – were actually meant to connect with disgruntled TV viewers, those who are deciding to tune out the NFL in response to players’ decisions to kneel or otherwise protest during the anthem.

Nielsen reported earlier this week that the NFL’s TV ratings were down by 7.5 percent compared to the first six weeks of the 2016 season. But numbers reported to the owners at the meeting were even more alarming.

Twenty-five of 31 NFL teams (excluding the Chargers) are experiencing local declines in ratings, including an 8 percent drop for the Patriots, 7 percent for the Cowboys, and 6 percent for the Steelers. Only the Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Lions are up by more than 5 percent.

The rise of digital streaming and “cord-cutting” has also been blamed for the decline in ratings across all TV programming and not just the NFL, but the story notes that the league’s TV numbers are declining at a faster rate than their streaming numbers are rising.

The figures presented to the owners on Tuesday and Wednesday are one of the biggest signs yet that the NFL is losing viewers at a rate that goes beyond simple cord-cutting, or even a diminished on-field product. That owners chose to take serious notice of the ratings drop this week, during a meeting that was supposed to be about giving the players a chance to address social issues and their related protests, speaks volumes about how the ongoing controversy is affecting their viewership.

A number of fans have been declaring themselves part of a “boycott” of the NFL since last season, when Colin Kaepernick started the national anthem protest movement. There were other factors in last season’s ratings dip, as there always are – but there’s no election to fall back on now. It’s still hard to accurately gauge the impact of the anthem protest backlash, but it appears that it has grown enough to actually catch the attention of owners.

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

Comments (83)

  2. Remember this: We don’t need the NFL, it needs us, the fans.
    Without the fans no money to the players or the owners.

  3. Whats an NFL oh never mind I remember. Cant wait to not watch the Superbowl.

  4. Hao De says:

    let the team owners, players, nfl league execs, and nfl game advertisers *personally* write their own checks to the “matter”/”demonstrators”/rioters/looters/arsonists/cop murderers.

    should the intended victims of those domestic terrorists buy the terrorists’ weapons ? how wise is that ?

  5. libertarianfreedom says:

    The players have an absolute 1st amendment right to protest. That does not absolve them from the consequences of their actions. It’s the epitome of narcissism when they take a national anthem (called that to evoke unity) simply to say ‘Hey look at me. I’m more important that the country I take so much from right now.’

    1. Thomas Ford says:

      The player do have the right to act like fools. If it is apparent that the owners have MADE the players stand, then it is clear that they DON”T WANT TO STAND.

      This fan and many others will never return. The players can beg if they so are inclined but if you are unwilling to stand and cover your heart willingly, and will only perform at the risk of losing your position, then you can kneel or scratch your a$$ for all I care while the Anthem is played as it is all disrespect.

    2. Stan Olson says:

      They have a right to protest on their own time, but their employers; the NFL and team owners; have the right to limit their protest “on the job”. You can look it up.

    3. Fred Smith says:

      No, players have no free speech rights as they are employed by private companies. An employee can be fired for having a political bumper sticker that the employer doesn’t like. James Damore was fired from Google for exercising his free speech. Curt Shilling was fired from ESPN for exercising his free speech. What’s been happening is that it’s those on the right who are being fired (and persecuted) yet leftists by far remain untouched. Sure, these NFL buffoons can kneel but then either they should have been fired or punished. Neither happened. Until leftists support free speech for EVERYONE, they deserve being fired, too. And we Americans are firing them.

    4. If you work for a privately own company like an NFL franchise you CANNOT say or do ANYTHING you want without getting fired!

      Try getting a DUI or try beating your wife without getting fired. Try calling your team owner or the head coach an idiot in public without getting fired. Try wearing the wrong shoes during a game without getting fined and/or suspended.

      Try kneeling during the National Anthem and alienating 7.5% of the NFL’s and getting your job back.

      The owners do infact have the legal authority to fire every players that kneels during the National Anthem… they’re just too afraid of the potential uproar by the black players in the NFL… which is 70% of the league.

      The owners have calculated that alienating the fans, you and me, is less risky than alienating the black players.

      Personally I’m mad at the owners not the players. The players had the guts to hijack the NFL’s broadcasts to start a political movement. The owners have allowed it for 13 months and running.

      I quit watching NFL games about 12 months ago when it became obvious to me that the 32 billionaire owners had chosen the players over me… the paying fan. So now I play golf and fish on Sunday’s.

      I doubt I’ll ever get over the disrespect the owners have allowed against the National Anthem, the flag and our veterans that served to protect our liberty and freedom. I love our veterans much more than I love the NFL.✌️

      1. Brent Salfen says:

        Just like the administration at Mizzou thought it would be wise to bend to the obnoxious student protesters and their made up racial complaints on that campus. THEN the citizens and silent majority students voted with their feet and enrollment plummeted 30% and Mizzou had to shut down 7 dorms. There is no real leadership in the NFL or Mizzou.

      2. …I don’t work 6 days a week to sit in front of television to watch the whiners do nothing to make their communities better and play their low budget politics….you feel there’s a problem, then spend the remaining six months of the year your not playing a game back in your community making a positive, long lasting, social redeeming difference in places where you feel wrongs are being committed. Think it’s easy? Go through a police academy and field training program and volunteer as a police officer in your community to make it better. Better yet join the National Guard, go through boot camp, and go to your communities when they’re devastate by flood and fire.

    5. John Medina says:

      I know of no businesses that say it is the right of employees to protest while on the job.

    6. John Fogarty says:

      They absolutely DO NOT have a first amendment right to protest while on the clock for a private employer. Too many people are running around saying this and it is not true.

    7. Actually you are wrong there is no 1A rights afforded you at your job.

    8. The NFell sure had no problem banning players from recognizing murdered policemen in Dallas. But they are suddenly bound by first amendment issues??? Yeah right. I will NEVER watch another NFL game. I have watched every Super Bowl. They built their league on the backs of fans like me. I’ve been to plenty of games too. Not any more. I’m done with them. In case you think I don’t mean it be aware I abandoned MLB back in 1982 when they had a split season. I haven’t watched half a dozen games in 35 years. Before that I would watch about 150 games a year. I mean what I say.


    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

    1. FACT: Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in September of 2016 WHEN HE KNEW HILLARY WAS GOING TO BE PRESIDENT! (He was so confident of her victory that he didn’t bother to register or vote.) He used the BLM (funded by George Soros) and their FALSE MESSAGES (lies) to promote his personal cause.

      Kaepernick and Soros were confident that their payday was COMING WITH HILLARY (she was going to use the (false) BLM messages as the “basis” of her reason to reward these two dunderheads! [She would start with the (false) premise that “X” happened and they were looking for justification based on that false premise! Much easier than expecting them to prove that “X” actually happened and wasn’t just fantasist imagination.]

      Then TRUMP WON!!! Kaepernick became a lost nobody and Soros became incandescent with RAGE! He HATES to lose and Hillary cost him a bundle. Soros BLAMES Trump and wants REVENGE! Kaepernick to trying to salvage what he can since Hillary can no longer reward hm. Soros NEEDS to destabilize the USA (he wanted Hillary to continue Obama’s programs that would continue to HARM the USA) and this is the best option.

      What are the components necessary to destabilize a country? (1) Create CHAOS! (2) Divide the nation. (3) Attack an American institution. BY GETTING a bunch of NFL players (useful idiots) TO “TAKE A KNEE,” all of the components needed to destabilize are optioned. Soros is LAUGHING all the way to the bank; his scheme (implemented by his pathetic cohort Colin Kaepernick, and his nasty Muslim girlfriend) are on the front pages and doing Soros’ bidding!

      The NFL players have NO real idea what is going on, but since they embarrassed themselves by “being stubborn,” they have to create reasons to do it, but they are merely “useful idiots” for Kaepernick and Soros. The players knelt before they had a good reason, probably just because they wanted some attention. They are now claiming it is because Trump is a racist, and the cops are corrupt, and the fans are Republicans, so they are being good Democrats and HATING everyone! But, the players are TOO naïve to understand that Soros is a communist and hates the USA, and that Kaepernick is a Marxist and hates the USA and that his girlfriend is a Muslim and hates the USA! The players are politically unsophisticated, so they fall for any simplistic lie. Kaepernick is USING the NFL to further his own sick agenda. Soros will use ANYTHING to further his evil agenda. The girlfriend is just along for the ride, but she has Kaepernick by the ring in his nose!

  7. Screw your customers owners said your employees……… and you s*cked their Johnson by letting them get away with it………. hope the real pain hits the value of your franchises…. later chumps…..

  8. I am almost weaned off the NFL. I have not watched the NBA since 1978. Golf and MLB are all that’s left in my life. Does not sound like much, that I will not be watching NFL on TV. Just remember I will not be buying any NFL gear anymore.

    1. Thomas Ford says:

      The NHL is worth your time, they’ll stand for the Canadian and the American Anthem.

    2. You’re a good man. I’m completely divorced from the NFL. My Sunday’s are now devoted to golf and fishing.

      I love my liberty, freedom and the veterans that protected those rights MUCH MORE than I love the NFL. No contest!

  9. Bobby Love says:

    Hey folks this is just my opinion but if the NFL hates America I have no use for them.

  10. Mike Favetti says:

    The knot in the pit of the Owners stomach is the sight of their investment melting away. It’s also the price they’re paying for their lack of integrity and spinelessness!

  11. The NFL chose political correctness over football. Let’s see if they realize they can’t pay their mortgages with virtue signalling points.

  12. Too many penalties and commercials which slows the game way down, owners who get the taxpayers to fund their new stadiums, regular reports of player arrests for a variety of crimes, and now some of the overpaid, pampered thugs protesting (I played varsity football in high school so I know these types). I am done with the NFL. There is plenty of college ball and various professional soccer leagues around the world to watch instead. Learn your lesson NFL or your ratings will keep dropping.

  13. Ignorant Moron League.

    BLM built entirely on a lie and denial of actual statistics.
    Nothing but tools of George Soros, the biggest society destroyer since Attila the Hun

  14. The NFL swallowed a poison pill called cultural Marxism, and now it’s killing them. The only antidote is to tell the Soros mafia to go F themselves.

  15. The Negro Felon League had better get used to being on their knees, they’ll be suċking diċk for rent money soon.

    1. You’re a racist, get some help!

      1. John C: Can you GUARANTEE that SOME of the black players on offense are REALLY committed to protecting WHITE quarterbacks? Can you GUARANTEE that some of the black defensive players are NOT committed to destroying the WHITE quarterbacks and WHITE receivers?

        A friend of mine asked that question on Sunday, and I wasn’t confident of the answer! It appears that the BLACK players have a whole lot of hatred in them; so much that they are WILLING TO BELIEVE LIES ABOUT WHITES!!!! I had NO IDEA they were so racist until the past few months; I now do not trust them or their intentions. They are SO filled with hatred!

  16. The NFL forced Beyonce’s anti-police Super Bowl halftime down America’s throat and now the radicalism has devolved into the league devoting itself to social justice based on the premise that police, nationwide, are exterminating the black race and $40M players are slaves. Click! Bye-bye, NFL.

  17. Jeff Sherman says:

    Don’t understand why there isn’t a rule in place that if you plan on disrespecting America, you need to stay in the locker room during the anthem.

  18. Numbers don’t lie. Players keep kneeling, soon enough they will have no fields to kneel on. Works for me. They can take knees at McDonald’s.

  19. These anti-American players can protest all they want, kneel and squat on the flag if you want. Myself and millions of other are going to refrain.

  20. It’s like rise of the planet of the felons

  21. Jason Smith says:

    its like getting a raise at work when you stop wasting hard earned money on a league that hates average working people. Taxpayer funded stadiums and $4.50 for tap water and these million and billionaires want to lecture us??? The owners let all the old players suffer with brain injuries and crippled knees and fight them tooth and nail to not pay their healthcare… yes- anything but the rotten to the core NFL from now on.

  22. Bill Eggers says:

    The NFL players, coaches, and owners, have said that they do not believe in the symbolism of the FLAG or the NATIONAL ANTHEM. Aren’t these the same dirt bags who use a TROPHY to show their accomplishments as the (cough-cough) best team in professional football? The players, et al kiss and caress the trophy when they win the Super Bowl. They whine and cry when they fail. Well S..T!!!!! It’s only a symbol, it shouldn’t mean anything. It is NOT like people DIED to win the damn thing or to PROTECT the players, owners, and coaches from harm. I wonder what they would do or say if we all took turns peeing on the trophy AND their uniforms and telling them that NOTHING they have done, currently do, or will do in the future means anything. They do NOT MATTER.

  23. What they don’t seem to realize is, CTE will ultimately kill football…the actions of snowflake players doing stupid things, will merely speed up the process…..The owners were stupid, and the failure of the league is on them….i was a 55 year fanatic about all things football, and i could care less now…NOTHING is forever….the fact that these idiots are killing their only avenue out of abject poverty, proves their stupidity

  24. Dan Epright says:

    Money talks. Can You Hear Me Now??!!

  25. “For most of the 2016 season, the NFL largely blamed the U.S. presidential election for a decline in TV ratings.”

    Nice try. And a bit late to the American Patriot rally, aren’t we, boys? Nope, you lost me after the Thursday night opener LAST season and I’m not coming back. Looooove my Sundays now that 10 hours of it isn’t spent sitting on my butt.

    The CNNFL is no longer among my viewables, now and forever. See ya — or, rather, I won’t. ;-)

  26. Ra Williams says:

    Lets see how much many NFL teams change ownership in the upcoming years (many). BTW, these moron players kneel in the UK to our flag but rise to the English who were the world’s leaders in the slave trade. Morons. Uneducated morons.

  27. Jay Williams says:

    I started last year boycotting all but my Giants and this year I dumped them, too. olivier vernon, harrison and collins can all bite me. I called the nfl last year and said what they should do: Keep the teams in the locker room. But they didn’t so now they’re stuck.
    It’s 100% up to the players to decide if they want the group, that includes me back. If not, the ratings are lower, revenue goes down and their checks might be impacted.
    I already know the players’ answer. many of them hate america and certainly us enough to take the hit.

  28. The NFL owners are so insulated and isolated from their fans they’ll not wake up in time to notice Goodell is leading them down the financial drain. Men should spend their Sundays with their children, America’s future depends on it.

  29. Paull Cudak says:

    It should go for ANY SPORTS BEING PLAYED!
    If they take a knee get up and LEAVE then post to every social media outlet your displeasure.

    1. Ray Van Horn says:

      Don’t forget to ask for a refund on your way out, just to emphasize why you are leaving.

  30. Larry Smith says:

    F the NFL…spoiled racist millionaires

  31. It isn’t 6 or 7 it’s over 100 that last week did it. And all for a lie. I am not watching a sport where the players make racial slurs towards me. And am boycotting their sponsors.

  32. Ethan Wayne says:

    I’m guessing the numbers are down more than being reported. I can’t imagine where this will all end. I’d sure hate to own an NFL apparel store right now. Buh Bye Goodell, hope your nervous tick gets better.

  33. Bob Blaney says:

    The NFL has become a hate group which decent people can not support.

  34. Jeffrey Day says:

    Nah Nah Nah Nah Hey Hey Hey Good Bye NFL

  35. Roger Goodell is an elite, east coast, liberal. He is completely disconnected, like all liberals, from mainstream America and those who are loyal NFL viewers. He should NOT permit the morons on the field from doing any leftist propaganda while playing the game. None. Those who do should be fired. Period!

  36. It appears the only way these owners and players will finally understand what America represents to “we the people”, is to hit them in their pocketbooks. I have boycotted the NFL. It should never have been politicized from the beginning. We want our country back from global elite. It is not the President’s fault your ratings are declining. Your viewership has been declining for some time now. Now maybe tuning you out will give these families much needed time to spend together in family activities. I see this as disrespectful of our nation, our valued vets and our history. Bye, bye NFL.

  37. Jack Riley says:

    Too late. Damage is done. No more watching the NFL thugs protesting during a game.

  38. Love how this story downplays genuine anger of us, those who not only helped PAY for their stadiums (many without a vote of the taxpayers), but have been subsidizing the education system for many years with MANY billions of dollars, just for them to be unwilling to stand for our flag.

    The boycott is quite real. And it’s spectacular.

  39. Ever since the NFL has been politicized, they’ve been losing fans. Late-night comedy TV used to be enjoyable, and it too has become politicized and their ratings are dropping also. People want to be entertained, not lectured to by pampered millionaires.

  40. Andre Paquin says:

    Hello from Canada.

    Sewer pipe Hollywood, the fake news MSM, the NFL, the Democrat sanctioned “Bread and Circus” entertainment/sports conglomerate are all buckling under the weight of their broken moral compasses and imploding.

    MAGA is wining!!! Learn it, Live it, Love it.

  41. The players do not care if what they are doing affects the owners bottom line. Only when it starts to affect their own bottom line, will this so call “protest” nonsense go flying out the window.

  42. Fake Fake Fake news. If there is ONLY a 7.5% drop its because they are counting people that are tuning in just to see if the players are behaving. I would bet my life that the people that turn off their games in disgust is up to about 60%. This is a word games and a twisting of data; corporations do it all the time while attempting to look favorable to the shareholders. Bottom line; the customer base of the NFL is P1$$ED. let’s put it this way, viewing time an NFL game is down house to house is down by WAY more than 7.5%

  43. Cancelled Directv NFL Sunday Package 2 weeks ago. I’ll be outside enjoying the fall as an expression of MY free speech. God Bless America and the TRUE Americans who realize what a gift it is to live here.

  44. Mike Thaman says:

    Like so many other businesses, some innocently, some not, you will find it very hard, if not impossible to get your customers back after you lose them. They will find something else who provides that same service….which is entertainment, in case you didn’t know what you provided.

  45. Daniel Petry says:

    Not interested in the NFL anymore.

  46. Guy Joubert says:

    It’s only hard to understand the connection between the NFL getting politicized by social justice warrior types and the drop in ratings if you agree with the social justice warrior types.

  47. Many of the team owners are heavily leveraged and cannot afford even a small dip in revenue. In fact they were probably counting on an 5% increase !!

  48. Owners have defaced and marginalized their brand, which will now be difficult to repair. Talk about killing the goose that laid the golden egg!

  49. Lars Talbert says:

    Count me in as one that is also DONE w/ the NFL

  50. Why is 70 per cent of the NFL black?

  51. Fred Stevens says:

    They can stop kneeling. They can apologize. It doesn’t matter. We see them now for who they are. They cannot un-ring this bell. I’m done with the NFL.

  52. Veteran’s Day is coming. I suggest to shut off the NFL games that day. Just the one day for some of you still like to watch the game. Let’s make a statement to these players.

  53. Jeff Lucas says:

    NFL is clueless. It has driven the decline all on its own. Its own greed. As much as I would love to agree it is a patriotic issue. It is not.

    The NFL has entered into exclusive deals with Verizon. With DirecTV. That automatically limited its market. Then comes the cord cutter era. DirecTV subscribers down. Less viewers. Many people watch and follow sports on the move. But if you are on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or anything else other than Verizon–guess what. Outta luck. So again, less viewers.

    The NFL has elected to make its availability exclusive. That by definition MEANS less viewers. So they reap what they sew. But are too blind to see that.

  54. The decline last year was in part due to Kapernick. This year just amplifies it.

  55. Cindy Brown says:

    Again the nationan athem is not played .For years you used the troops and the Flag when needed.Veterans day is in a few weeks I hope you cowards will respect the Flag and our troops on that weekend.Fake news .What a shame

  56. Marsha Lake says:

    Lost my eldest daughter (3rd gen Marine, Sgt. 1-9, Corps Forever) in Afghanistan, so kinda ultra-sensitive to disrespect. NFL is forbidden forever in this house. Cable t.v. is cut, too, for same reason. Beyond all that, NFL players look and act like thugs. Not in my home, ever.

  57. lizzzy321 says:

    Wow, this is the most activity I’ve seen on a comment section on the Boston CBS site in a very long time. And all of it against the Anthem protests. I’m very surprised. I didn’t think there were that many people who felt that way.

    I’m done rehashing the whole situation. And I’m done with the NFL as well. I cancelled my sports package from Comcast this week. I used to watch Monday, Thursday night football and 2 games on Sunday – no more. No game tickets, if someone offered them to me for nothing. No NFL merchandise, and I already looked up who the NFL’s largest sponsors are. Mars candy bars – Halloween is almost here, that’s one brand that won’t be on my shopping list. I need new tires for my car soon – sorry Bridgestone. There are other brands and any company that supports the Anthem protests can do so without my money to do so. Nike sneakers – I always liked Adidas and the list goes on. At least a dozen other sponsors that I have put the time in to avoid and find alternative companies to do business with. And if you think people that make these switches are going to change back, when the anthem protests resolve themselves, I wouldn’t count on it. Once you force us to find new brands, why would we switch back?

  58. Mia Le says:

    I say tune in for a short time, see if they have changed, catch who the sponsors are then turn the game off. After you know who the sponsors are then send them an e-mail saying I’ll never buy your product again if you continue to support the NFL. Of course you know they have contracts but they (sponsors) could publicly speak out against this and say they are considering pulling their funding. The NFL could choose to put a ribbon or a badge or something on their uniforms if they feel strongly about this (they wore pink for cancer) and I personally would not have a problem with that but to disrespect the flag may be their right (as the NFL) but it is NOT right. Just my opinion.

  59. Patrick Hope says:

    “the falling TV ratings “might just be the first proof” that the continued “discord” over player protests is negatively impacting everyone’s bottom line.”
    YA THINK?!

  60. Zeke Bleeker says:

    Has anybody seen Sports Illustrated’s “take” on this during the past couple months? They maintain that the NFL’s ratings are to be blamed from everything including hurricanes to “quality” issues to the alignment of Jupiter and Venus in our night sky — however, rest assured that the BLM anti-anthem “protests” have virtually nothing to do with viewers tuning out. They ostensibly believe themselves in this spin. It’s hilarious! Journalism at its finest!

  61. Eventually the drop in revenue will result in lower contracts and players will have self destructed

  62. Keep them in the locker room like before and if this doesn’t work tell them goodbye you can be replaced by others too many people looking for a job.

  63. John David says:

    How can anyone look at the facts and not see that the players, who are protesting false narratives in a very ineffective manner, are the cause of the dip in the ratings. When the MLB players went on strike in the mid 90’s it took 8 years for me to go back to baseball…this might take longer!

  64. Mike Favetti says:

    No fear folks, Goodell has the problem solved. He’s proposing to decrease the number of games on Thursday night by ten and add those to the Sunday line-up. His reasoning for the decline of viewership is over saturation of the game during the week. A clear indication that he has no idea of what is going on in the League and the fans!