Just hours ahead of the first kickoffs on the first Sunday of the NFL’s regular season, President Donald Trump again called for NFL players to stand for the national anthem and for TV networks to broadcast it, pointing to a decline in television ratings for the league’s season opener Thursday night.
"Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison," he tweeted. "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!"
TV networks showed the anthem last season when player demonstrations to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality were at their height and the president was calling for any "son of a bitch" who did not stand to be fired and tweeting frequently about the issue.
Fox and CBS typically do not televise the anthem before their 1 p.m. Eastern time regional telecasts, although an exception was made before those games of Week 3 last year by Fox, CBS, NBC, the NFL Network and DirecTV. ESPN showed the anthem last season after the shooting in Las Vegas, after the first weekend of demonstrations and when the Monday night game fell on the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Networks do not plan to change that policy, using the time before kickoff to sell ads.
Trump’s tweet Sunday referred to ratings for the NFL season opener between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night, a sluggish 18-12 Eagles win that began over 40 minutes late because of lightning in Philadelphia. The game drew a 13.4 overnight rating, according to the network, that was the lowest in 10 years for a season opener. That number is down from the 14.6 in the 2017 opener.