NFL TV ratings on the rise despite domestic violence fumble

Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:05am EDT
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Americans are tuning into NFL football in greater numbers than last year, according to early season viewership figures, signaling the league's fumbled handling of domestic violence cases has not dented its overall popularity.

Through the first three weeks of the season, audiences watching nationally televised primetime broadcasts have risen and nearly all networks have seen an uptick in viewership so far this season.

Although the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell have been widely criticized for their uneven response to abuse cases involving players, angry fans have so far not turned the channel in protest.

"I'm not going to stop watching football," said Los Angeles lawyer Conor Flahive, 26.

The NFL's domestic abuse crisis was touched off when Goodell suspended former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice two games for punching his fiancé, now wife, unconscious, a punishment many believed was too light.

Goodell reversed course this month after a surveillance video of Rice's punch was published, raising questions at how America's most popular and powerful sports league could not obtain a video that the media was able to find and view.

"Obviously, they did a bad job handling it," Flahive added, echoing much of a public sentiment that heaps blame on the NFL higher-ups while stopping short of turning their backs on the league in general.

Network CBS has drawn 19.5 million viewers on average to its Sunday afternoon NFL games, according to Nielsen data, an increase from its 17.8 million it averaged over the course of last season, continuing the NFL's run as a ratings juggernaut.   Continued...

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) runs with the ball in the second quarter against Dallas Cowboys defensive end George Selvie (99) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY