Donald Trump Tweets About NFL Ratings, Gets His Facts Wrong

The NFL ratings are down, but how much of that has to do with the national anthem controversy remains a matter of intense dispute.

trump tweets about the nfl
Alex Edelman- Pool / Getty Images

The NFL ratings are down, but how much of that has to do with the national anthem controversy remains a matter of intense dispute.

Donald Trump on Sunday tweeted about the NFL – one of his favorite subjects – and got his facts wrong in the process.

In a Sunday morning tweet, Trump lamented the NFL’s declining ratings (or he took pleasure in them, it’s hard to tell) and then blamed them on the ongoing national anthem controversy.

“Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison. Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!”

Trump got a few things wrong in his tweet.

First, he was likely referring to Thursday night’s season opener, since that’s the only NFL game to have taken place, as of this writing, and thus the only ratings he could possibly be referring to. However, the ratings for that game, though dismal, aren’t down 13 percent.

According to Awful Announcing, the game got a 13.4 percent rating, which is a term used in the TV industry to determine a show’s viewership in the context of other shows that aired at the time. And while 13.4 percent is indeed awful for an NFL game, it’s not a 13 percent decline from last year’s season-opener. It’s actually eight percent lower, according to The New York Post. Still bad, and still the lowest season-opening rating in a decade, but not as bad as Trump makes it out to be.

So are the game’s terrible ratings due to the national anthem controversy? Maybe, maybe not. But consider that no players actually knelt during the national anthem on Thursday. Also consider that the game was delayed by weather and, once it started, it was by all accounts an awful game. So that could explain the season opener’s dismal ratings as well.

Of course, the larger question is, are the NFL’s ratings down across the whole sport, and if so, is the national anthem controversy to blame?

For the 2018 season, there simply isn’t enough data to go on yet. But the NFL ratings have been on a steady decline since Colin Kaepernick famously started “taking a knee” during the national anthem. But Tampa Bay Times writer Tom Jones points out that NASCAR has seen double-digit rating declines in the past couple of years as well, and no NASCAR driver has taken a knee during the national anthem.

In fact, all TV ratings are down, across all genres. And the reason for that is simple: more TV users are canceling cable and/or satellite subscriptions in favor of streaming. Also, the TV rating system doesn’t take into account, for example, the Sunday-afternoon crowd of everyone watching the game at their favorite sports bar.

Long story short: the NFL is indeed hemorrhaging viewers, but so is the rest of the TV industry. It’s a basic fact that Donald Trump seems to overlook.