BOSTON (CBS) -- Last season's surprising decline in NFL TV ratings happened for a number of possible reasons. A new survey suggests that player-led national anthem protests, led by then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, were a bigger factor than many may have previously believed. In fact, they may have been the biggest.
As reported by ESPN's Darren Rovell on Thursday, a new survey by J.D. Power polled 9,200 people who attended at least one football, basketball, or hockey game in 2016 and asked whether they had watched less than last year. Of those that watched fewer games, 26 percent cited the national anthem protests as the reason they watched less, while 24 percent cited either the NFL's off-field problems with domestic violence or its issues with the pace of TV broadcasts.
J.D. Power said that only 12 percent of the fans surveyed said they watched fewer NFL games in 2016 than they did in 2015. About 27 percent said they watched more football and 62 percent said they watched about the same amount.
Elsewhere, 16 percent said the 2016 presidential election coverage played a role in their decisions to watch less football, while five percent said they got rid of their cable subscriptions.
Over the course of the 2016 NFL season, TV ratings dropped by an average of 8 percent per game broadcast. Pre-election games were down 14 percent overall, while games from weeks 10-17 were down only 1 percent.
Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012, remains an unrestricted free agent as training camps kick off across the NFL. Patriots safety Devin McCourty spoke about Kaepernick when asked on Wednesday whether he was surprised that the quarterback is still without a team.
"Honestly I'm not that surprised [that Kaepernick hasn't signed]," said McCourty. "I think that he was kind of aware of what he was getting into. [It's] sad but the guy's a good player, he's done some successful things in this league. It's just how things shake out. What he has done I think has made it hard for him to get a job, not even going off of his talent level but that alone makes it tough for a team to give him a shot.
"I think you see that. I think he was kind of aware when he did and what he was doing, the effect it would have on his career. It's tough for him, I would imagine. We'll see. Hopefully he gets picked up and has a chance to still play."
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