On Sunday, the NFL yet again saw players #TakeAKnee and yet again suffered more disconcerting ratings news. Throwing more fuel on the league’s self-started dumpster fire, networks have revealed that a growing list of advertisers are now threatening to pull their ads if the politically divisive protest coverage continues.
Over the weekend, several players continued to follow Colin Kaepernick’s lead by refusing “to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Among the kneelers, as Deadline notes, were the Miami Dolphins’ Michael Thomas, Julius Thomas and Kenny Stills, who kneeled during the national anthem before their big Sunday Night Football matchup, despite the team having implemented a new rule against such divisive protests. The result: the defiant display yet again “stole much of the game’s thunder.”
The numbers for Sunday night’s game contained more of the same bad news league execs have been hearing all year. Halfway through the season, the NFL’s ratings are down 5% by average over last year at this point, and down a stunning 19% from the 2015-2016 season.
Equally troubling for the league is the rising number of advertisers who are threatening to pull out if the ratings-damaging politicizing continues, though at least two networks have stressed that none have yet to do so. According to AdWeek, NBCUniversal’s chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships Linda Yaccarino admitted on Friday that a “list of advertisers have made themselves very clear: if you continue covering the political coverage of the issue, we will not be part of the NFL.”
During a “fireside chat” on Friday moderated by AdWeek, Yaccarino agreed with CBS Corp. CEO and chairman Leslie Moonves that no advertisers have yet pulled any ads, however she noted that a growing number have made quite clear that coverage of the games cannot continue to be a politically divisive as they’ve been this season.
“Because think about it: they have half the country that is cheering about that, and they have half the country that is emailing them, saying, don’t do that. So that’s a real thing,” said Yaccarino.
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