President Donald Trump renewed his criticism of the NFL on Thursday, criticizing two quarterbacks in a tweet for kneeling during the national anthem.
“No thanks!” Trump wrote in a tweet featuring photos of Houston Texans QB DeShaun Watson and Detroit Lions signal-caller Matthew Stafford, both of whom were crouched on one knee.
The president was responding to a tweet from Dee Sports Guy that said, “QB’s Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) & Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions) exercising Social Justice support during the National Anthem minutes ago.”
Both teams played each other; Detroit lost at home to Houston 41-25.
Over the summer, the president said he would no longer be watching the NFL if players continued to take a knee during the playing of the anthem.
Before the 2020 season began, the league announced it would be dedicating more time and resources to so-called “social justice” initiatives following the George Floyd incident in May. Those initiatives include Black Lives Matter messaging.
Also, the league expanded the “Rooney Rule,” named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II. Previously, it required teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching positions; the expansion requires teams to interview at least two now.
And earlier this month, owners adopted another rule “that will compensate teams with draft picks for losing minority staff members to head coaching jobs and other premium positions elsewhere,” USA Today reported. “It’s another attempt by the league to bolster minority hiring for high-level jobs against the backdrop of a lagging record of diversity by its teams.”
At least 75 percent of the league’s players are black, the outlet added.
But the adoption of BLM messaging and other racial initiatives has come with a cost. Viewership has fallen about 6 percent
The president has been critical of NFL players kneeling during the playing of the anthem since the then, San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, began the practice in 2017. Kaepernick claimed he was protesting police-involved shootings of black men, which he blamed on systemic racism.
Trump unloaded on the league and players three years ago after players knelt ahead of Thanksgiving Day games.
“At least 24 players kneeling this weekend at NFL stadiums that are now having a very hard time filling up. The American public is fed up with the disrespect the NFL is paying to our Country, our Flag and our National Anthem. Weak and out of control!” Trump wrote.
Fans have also responded. While television ratings fell dramatically in 2017, some fans returned and they picked up again over the next two years. But this year, ratings have slipped again, and many analysts believe that the protests and focus on racial messaging are at least partially responsible.
But several analysts, however, have said the declines are not as serious as many believed they would be.
“Considering all the issues the NFL has had to deal with, the ratings are OK,” Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports who now runs his own sports television consulting company, told the Boston Globe. “It hasn’t been a great year for ratings considering everything that has happened, but they aren’t in the toilet either.”
The paper reported that NFL games are averaging 15.1 million viewers, which is down about 6 percent from 2019.
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