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Are National Anthem Protests Costing NFL Viewership?

By Christy Strawser

(WWJ) James Olson, a Sports Illustrated subscriber since fourth grade, watches action-packed NFL games on TV to escape from the endless round of political bickering playing out on other channels.

But with more national anthem protests cropping up, he feels like politics has taken over his favorite sport, too. So he's tuning out.

"I want to say to these guys 'If you weren't playing in the NFL, you would be working at McDonalds. I think people have had it," said, Olson, a Birmingham, Mich., resident.

He's not alone.

The NFL opener, a Super Bowl rematch between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, brought 25.2 million viewers -- which is an astonishing number of eyeballs. "For comparison, The Walking Dead averages around 14 million live viewers as TV's most-watched show," Forbes wrote.

But that's down 8 percent from 2015 and 6 percent from 2014. Sunday's numbers, Forbes added, were down 13 percent from last year.

"This also marked the lowest overnight season-opening rating in seven years," Forbes found.

In a hot and heavy political season with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton lobbing verbal bombs at each other seemingly all day, every day, while the media breathlessly follows along, it's just too much, Olson said.

"Sports used to not be a stage for this, and now it is, so I'm turning it off," he said. "I refused to watch the Chicago-Philadelphia game because they were going to protest ...You start to figure out you can get along without football, there are other things out there I can do."

He spent his Sunday, instead, watching part of a soccer game, spending time outside, and then working out.

The #boycottNFL hashtag on Twitter has hundreds of participants who are urging others to send a message to NFL owners and Roger Goodell by sitting out games, turning off the TV and refusing to buy merchandise.

"We're also pissed that the owners aren't doing anything, that the coaches aren't doing anything and the coaches aren't doing anything," Olson said. "You can do this on our own time. Rent a stage somewhere and see if you can get a crowd of 70,000 people."

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the wave when he pointedly kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Other NFL players later joined his peaceful demonstration.

The players have plenty of support. A high school team in Seattle followed Kaepernick's lead.

"We were talking about things that were happening, taking place in society, and it went from the young men talking about the social injustice that they face on a day to day basis from coaches sharing their stories… And through our conversation, the players decided to do this. To make this movement," the coach told The Daily Beast.

And here's the other side: "The owners should force them not to use the NFL as a stage for their political beliefs," Olson said.  "Once this whole thing starts, it was like 'you know what, you're a moron. What is wrong with you?'" Olson said.






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