As the controversy surrounding the national anthem protests continues to divide football fans, the NFL now has a new challenge it must come to grips with: not being country’s favorite sport. A recent poll showed that the number of people who view the league positively has dropped significantly and that shift has allowed baseball to claim the top spot.
As reported by the Daily Mail, a Winston Group survey showing that the favorable ratings for the NFL have fallen from 57 percent at the end of August to 44 percent at the end of September, marking a 13 percent shift in just one month.
The unfavorable rating for the NFL is now the highest among all of the mainstream professional leagues, coming in at 40 percent.
At the end of September, baseball’s favorable rating was 65 percent.
The survey also showed that the NFL’s core fans, typically considered to be men aged 34 to 54, have started to turn on the sport, with favorable ratings dropping from 73 to 42 and unfavorable ratings rising from 19 to 47 between August and September.
President Donald Trump was vocal about his opinion during September, actively criticizing players, coaches, and owners in the league who chose to participate in the national anthem protests, and his statements likely impacted the opinions of his supporters.
After Trump spoke about the protests during a rally in Alabama, where he said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired,” over 200 NFL players took part in protest activities as a sign of unity throughout the league.
The NFL has seen viewership drop since the national anthem protests began, both in the number of people attending in-person as well as watching games on television, but only lost its position as America’s favorite sport recently.
As the controversy swelled after the protests following Trump’s statements, some NFL teams and players have chosen to cease their participation in the associated activities. For example, the Denver Broncos made an announcement that they would be “standing together” beginning with the game that took place on October 1.
However, some players are still protesting by sitting or kneeling during the national anthem, so it is possible public opinion won’t return to its prior levels until the controversy is entirely over.