NFL Ratings Slump Getting Worse… Collision of Crises On Thanksgiving
The NFL ratings slump is getting worse
The TV audience for NFL games steepened its slide in Week 11, losing 1 million viewers versus last year’s season-to-date average.
The 6.3 percent slump — worsening from comparable declines of 5.6 to 5.7 percent during the previous three weeks — plagued a week whose off-the-field drama made gridiron tackling seem almost tame by comparison.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones remained the major distraction by continuing to battle with fellow team owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Jones brought even more tension to Week 11 when video footage surfaced late last week of the football tycoon making a racially charged remark at a 2013 wedding party.
President Donald Trump added to the off-field antics with a tweet calling for the suspension of the Oakland Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch for not standing for the national anthem during a game played in Mexico City.
On Thanksgiving, the NFL Faces a Collision of Crises
Turkey Day usually represents a late-season reset for pro football, but myriad controversies portend a more serious tone this year.
The National Football League’s tradition of playing on Thanksgiving Day is also its oldest. Back in 1920, the year the league was founded, 12 proto-football teams squared off in six Turkey Day matchups. Since then the NFL has hosted Thanksgiving games in every year but four—all during World War II—with the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions emerging as annual hosts and other teams rotating through to play in front of a tryptophan-tripping, football-mad nation.
And as the NFL has ballooned into the most popular professional sports league in North America, its Thanksgiving custom has grown as well, adding pyrotechnics and halftime shows to impress massive TV audiences. Aside from the Super Bowl, no celebration better represents the NFL’s largesse, cultural might, spectacle, and promise of escapism than Thanksgiving—the league’s entire self-image, shrunken down to one day.
This Thanksgiving, however, the NFL faces a cornucopia of crises, from backlash over player protests to allegations of collusion to rising concerns over head injuries to sliding TV viewership. Fans fret over the league’s quality of play and sponsors bemoan sagging ratings. Players decry racism in and out of football, while owners fear how such expression will affect their bottom lines. At times this fall, the games themselves have wound up smothered by one cacophonous controversy after another. This has been the NFL’s most tumultuous season in recent memory and the first time in at least a generation the league’s problems have seemed to overwhelm its product.