The NFL has reached the midpoint of a rocky season.
The Wuhan virus has made completion of the season a tenuous proposition.
Now the league got some troubling news about its latest ratings.
COVID-19 has dominated the lives of Americans for eight months.
Lockdowns ground the economy to a halt, and several entertainment outlets were either postponed or outright canceled.
March Madness, Wimbledon, and the Summer Olympics didn’t happen in 2020, and virtually every movie theater in the country has been shut down.
When the NFL announced it would carry on with the 2020 season, there was an expectation that viewers would flock to the game due to a dearth in entertainment options.
However, viewership has been down across the board for the league.
One of the excuses for the disappointing ratings was public interest in the 2020 election.
But the Sunday Night Football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first game after election night, drew porous ratings.
The game only drew a 9.5 rating and 16.88 million viewers, a 23% decline from last year’s week nine Sunday Night Football game.
The game featured future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tom Brady—both trading places atop the all-time passing touchdowns leaderboard—and the both teams jockeying for first place in the NFC South and the number one season in the conference playoffs.
Despite the starpower and stakes, the game didn’t even outperform last week’s Sunday Night Football game.
The excuse of election fatigue isn’t the determining factor.
One problem is that the NFL chose to veer into the realm of “woke” social justice, a move that absolutely tanked the NBA.
The league quickly tried to course-correct by not broadcasting any pregame anti-American anthem protests that might take place, but the damage may have already been done for the season.
It took two years for the NFL to begin to claw its way back in the ratings after the 2016 and 2017 seasons were marred by anthem protests.
The doubling down on politics is only going to alienate more fans, and many viewers learned to live without sports during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
In the midst of draconian lockdowns and violent riots, fans want a distraction from the chaos on the streets.
Luckily for the NFL, they throttled back before driving off a cliff like the NBA.
Players in the NBA boycotted multiple playoff games because alleged rapist Jacob Blake got shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin while resisting arrest.
“Black Lives Matter” was plastered on the courts despite the group being openly Marxist, and players wore social justice slogans on their jerseys.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver suggested the league won’t go down that road again next season, but the league’s brand could be irreparably fractured.
The NFL season drags along, and the league still has the specter of COVID-19 derailing the playoffs.