NEW YORK (Reuters) - NBC’s ratings for the National Football League game between the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins on Sunday night were slightly down from a popular week three match-up last season, although it was not known if this was linked to a controversy over NFL player protests during the U.S. national anthem.
NBC said 11.6 percent of households tuned into the game, down from 12.9 percent who viewed the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys in last season’s week three. The Dallas Cowboys are traditionally a popular draw for football fans.
NBC said 20 percent of households watching TV at the time viewed the game, down from 21 percent for last year’s Bears and Cowboys game. This week’s game also posted lower initial ratings than weeks one and two, NBC said.
NFL teams staged a show of solidarity with protesting players before Sunday’s games by kneeling, linking arms or staying off the field during the national anthem, defying President Donald Trump’s call for team owners to fire those who refuse to stand.
NBC’s ratings numbers do not include digital and live streaming.
CBS said its overall game coverage on Sunday averaged 11.9 percent of households that tuned in, up 4 percent from last year’s week three coverage.
Final viewership data is expected later on Monday.
In a gesture initiated last season by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, several NFL players have routinely “taken one knee” during the playing of the anthem. It is intended to call attention to what the protesting players see as a pattern of racism against African-Americans by police, but Trump has strongly criticized the action.
At a political rally on Friday, he suggested any protesting player was a “son of a bitch” and urged team owners to dismiss them on the spot.
Trump has also charged that NFL games have been losing fans, saying in a Twitter post on Sunday that “attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry