The Slatest

Weekend Ratings Jump Undermines Trump Claim That Discreet Pregame Protests Are Destroying the NFL

LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills kneels during the national anthem on Sunday in Orchard Park, New York.

Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

After a weekend spent complaining about black NFL players, POTUS claimed Tuesday morning that the league’s ratings have declined because patriotic Americans are so insulted when anti-racism protests take place during the national anthem that they stop watching games:

NBC’s Pro Football Talk, however, reports in a surprise development that it turns out Donald Trump might have made a claim that was not factually true:

For the weekend as a whole, ESPN and CBS were up, NBC and FOX were down, and on aggregate ratings across the NFL were up about 3 percent from Week Three last year.

The bump was especially influenced by Monday night’s game, before which Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a very white man, took a knee with his team—albeit in the ambiguous name of “unity” rather than social justice—in the moments before the anthem was played:

Cowboys-Cardinals got a 9.3 overnight rating for ESPN, easily the highest-rated Monday night game of the year. … The 9.3 overnight rating is way up from last year’s Week Three Monday night game.

It must be noted, though, that games involving the Cowboys—the league’s most high-profile team—tend to get higher ratings than other games regardless of whether there are national anthem protests involved. (Last year’s Week 3 Monday night game featured the less popular New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.) Indeed, there are many factors affecting week-to-week and year-to-year NFL ratings that have nothing to do with protests or even with football itself.

Sadly, it may be time to admit that Americans can no longer trust their president to provide good-faith analysis of the TV sports business.