The NFL has had a terrible year.
The anti-American anthem protests hampered stadium attendance and hurt television ratings.
But the NFL got some news that’s even more troubling.
According to a Gallup poll, the NFL is declining in popularity among American sports fans.
A new Gallup poll finds that the game of football is still America’s most popular sport, but that its popularity has slipped six points since 2007.
The poll released this month found that 37 percent of respondents said football was their favorite sport. Basketball ranked as the second most popular at 11 percent, baseball came in third with nine percent, and Soccer came in fourth with seven percent.
Gallup did not separate leagues in its questions, so each category includes college and local sports along with professional leagues such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the rest.
Despite football taking the top spot, though, this year’s result is down six points form the 43 percent high obtained in Gallup’s 2007 poll. The result was also down three points from the 39 percent reached when the question was asked in 2013.
At nine percent, baseball is now at its lowest spot in the history of the poll. The popularity of the sport has steadily fallen since the 39 percent high realized in the late 1940s. Baseball was traditionally considered America’s favorite sport, but in 1972 football overtook Abner Doubleday’s game as the nation’s most popular sport, according to Gallup.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, soccer is approaching baseball’s popularity with the seven percent finding. Soccer handily beat out auto racing which reached 2 percent favorability.
Gallup offered several possible reasons why football lost six points in its favorability rating including the domestic abuse accusations against Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, the mounting evidence that player safety is a neglected issue, and the massive anti-American protests by millionaire NFL players mounted during the playing of the national anthem.
Gallup also reminded readers that the NFL television ratings fell ten points during the 2017 season.
The NFL still leads in popularity, but a downward trend over an extended period of time has to be concerning.
The league had to endure the unpatriotic protests that drove fans away and could potentially take years to undo. That particular issue is exacerbated by the fact the league appears in no hurry to rectify the problem.
The league gave into the protesters’ demands and awarded them $90 million to go towards social justice activism projects.
The NFL was also slow to act on the concussion problem, which is alienating fans and tamping down enthusiasm for the game at the lower levels.
Finally, the league’s officiating appears to get worse every year. Replay slows down the flow of the game, and often times the call is still wrong.
The NFL has several challenges to overcome if it plans to reverse the trend of declining popularity.