Only one player remained seated during national anthem…
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Some are blaming the 45-min. weather delay, others a slow-paced first half in the matchup between the Eagles and the Falcons on Thursday, to kickstart the 2018 NFL season.
However, the ongoing controversies generated in the week prior by Nike and former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick certainly didn’t help matters when it came to the league’s continuing struggles with viewership.
Ratings indicated that it was the lowest draw in 10 years–the last time numbers were so low being when the game was pushed up to 7 p.m. to accommodate John McCain‘s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
Sports Media Watch said the season-opener’s overnight returns gave it a 13.4 share, down 8 percent from last year’s Chiefs-Patriots matchup and 19 percent from the previous year’s Panthers-Broncos game.
The highest rated share was 2015’s Steeler’s-Patriot’s game, according to a tweet from Sports TV Ratings:
Past 5 years of NFL Kickoff game overnight ratings:
2017: Chiefs/Pats: 14.6
2016: Panthers/Broncos: 16.5
2015: Steelers/Pats: 17.7
2014: Packers/Seahawks: 16.8
2013: Ravens/Broncos: 16.2
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) September 7, 2018
Not surprisingly, NBC, which broadcast the game, tried to put a positive spin on the numbers by tweeting that it was the network’s best rating for any sporting event since the, uh, 2018 Olympics. (It should be noted that Fox Sports and Telemundo held the broadcasting rights to the summer’s World Cup soccer tournament.)
Weather-delayed Falcons-Eagles NFL Kickoff Game on NBC, which ended after midnight ET, posts 13.4/25 overnight (not including digital) — BEST for any sporting event since 2018 Winter Olympics on NBC
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) September 7, 2018
Ironically, given many viewers were likely put off by the kneeling during the national anthem–which the Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson openly endorsed–none of the players took a knee on Thursday.
The one exception, according to Newsmax, was defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who remained seated as Boys II Men sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
As the cameras panned through shots of a nearly empty stadium in pouring rain, Philly defensive end Chris Long, a vocal Trump critic and advocate for kneeling, was shown on camera enthusiastically standing with his hand over his heart.
Long had tweeted his support for Nike earlier in the week:
Nike is a huge business. They’ve calculated risk. They may even have reason to believe this will make the brand more popular which means the guy burning his white air monarchs is in the minority. Bitter pill to swallow, I’m sure. Good luck w the protest. Bet they anticipated it.
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) September 4, 2018
Safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had participated in the protest during preseason games, was reportedly also standing on the sidelines.
The Eagles beat the Falcons 18-12.