SAN FRANCISCO (NEXSTAR) – Despite COVID restrictions keeping people at home, many Republican voters have elected to punt on the early games of the NFL season and find something else to do instead.
New data from the media analyst firm Comscore shows that the National Football League saw a drag in viewership in 2020 compared to a year ago, especially with independent and right-leaning voters.
Analysis of the first three weeks of the season shows viewership among all households dropping about five percent compared to last season, but numbers among self-identified Democrats has remained relatively steady.
“Looking at Republican Voters, Comscore saw an 11% decline in Week 1; a 17% decline in Week 2; and an 8% decline in Week 3 when comparing year-over-year,” company officials wrote in a press release.
The survey also found as many as nine percent of independents and ten percent of unregistered voters taking a pass each week compared to last year.
Comscore offered no theories as to why viewership has shifted along party lines, but the league has become more of a political football (pun intended) since Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.
President Donald Trump and conservative pundits criticized Kaepernick – who was trying to raise awareness about police brutality against Black Americans – and accused him of disrespecting the flag.
At the time the league showed little support for the 49er quarterback but the commissioner has since expressed remorse for “not listening” sooner. Kaepernick has not played in the league since that season, and he previously sued the league over perceived efforts to blacklist him.
The NFL had seen ratings bounces in 2018 and 2019, but a decline this year actually matches drop off seen in several other major professional sports during the pandemic, according to a Sports Illustrated report from earlier this week.