The NFL Is Going Through Its Annual Weekly Popularity Checkup

The NFL’s health remains good.  

It is week two of the 2020 National Football League season and the league is under a television ratings microscope. Last week’s Thursday night game, which was the season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans had less viewers compared to the 2019 opener between a nationally followed team, Green Bay, and the big Chicago Bears television friendly market. There was a drop of 12.3 percent from the 2019 audience with more than 19 million viewers but digital watching was up. It is important to note that the NFL Thursday night game easily won the ratings race that night and the NFL is among the highest rated programs weekly on TV. Advertisers will continue to put money into the product in an attempt to reach 18 through 45-year-old men who they hope will buy their products.

The NFL is trying to address the major social issue of the summer after daily demonstrations following the death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May. That policy includes allowing players to speak out about what they perceive as racial injustice and that probably is a problem for a segment of the NFL fan base. Some in a capped crowd of 17,000 people in Kansas City because of COVID-19 booed Chiefs and Texans players as they stood side by side in a show of unity. Players are supposed to shut up and play not show any feelings that they might have outside of playing a game. On Sunday, a number of teams did not come out for the Star-Spangled Banner while some players and coaches staged personal protests. The NFL has seen this play out for four years now starting with Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during his national anthem protest. Sports and politics do mix even if some NFL fans would prefer players to just play.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady hug after their season opening NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. The Saints won 34-23. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)