NFL TV ratings mixed amid national anthem debate

The NFL’s television ratings were a mixed bag on Sunday after President Trump’s harsh rebuke of players who kneel during the national anthem kicked off an unprecedented wave of new protests.

Dozens of players from the NFL’s 32 teams staged renewed demonstrations after Trump repeatedly slammed the protests as a sign of “total disrespect” for the American flag and its veterans. The NFL and nearly every one of its 32 team owners issued statements condemning Trump’s comments.

Fox and CBS, the NFL’s television partners for Sunday day games, each saw a spike in viewership for pregame coverage that overwhelmingly focused on Trump’s handling of the situation.

“FOX NFL Kickoff,” which aired from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET, posted a 1.3 overnight rating, up 30% from last year. Viewership of “Fox NFL Sunday,” which airs from 12 p.m. until kickoff at 1 p.m., saw a 9% increase to a 3.7 rating. Fox’s game broadcast drew a 10.3 rating, down 16% from Week 3 last year.

CBS’ “The NFL Today” pregame show saw its best rating since 2010, with a 3.2 overnight rating that marked a 33% increase from the same day one year ago. The network says its overall game coverage was up 4%, with an average rating of 11.9.

In primetime, NBC said ratings for its Sunday night broadcast of the Washington Redskins’ victory over the Oakland Raiders was down compared to Week 3 last season.

Complete viewership data is expected later Monday.