Early Ravens, NFL TV ratings a mixed bag after day of national anthem protests

Some 425,000 Baltimoreans tuned in to WJZ to watch the Ravens get demolished by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday morning in London — about 6,000 more fans than watched the season opener against the Bengals, but some 21,000 fewer than watched last year's Week 3 game.

Nationally, NFL viewership was a mixed bag on Sunday, with CBS reporting an overall 4 percent increase in viewership over the same week last year, while NBC and Fox's early ratings were down 10 percent and 16 percent, respectively. The WJZ broadcast was down about 4.7 percent from the Week 3 broadcast last year.


The TV viewership numbers come as controversy swells around the decision by about 200 NFL players to either take a knee or otherwise protest during the playing of the national anthem before games on Sunday. In London, a number of both Ravens and Jaguars players kneeled during the playing of the anthem.

On Friday, during a rally in Alabama, President Donald Trump voiced frustration over what he said was the decision by many NFL players to "disrespect" the American flag. He said he would like to see NFL owners tell those players, "You're fired."


Last season, Colin Kaepernick — a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2016 — became the face of the current protest controversy when he refused to stand for the national anthem before a game. It was Kaepernick's symbolic response to what he considered injustices against black citizens and other minorities in America.

In the following weeks and months, players joined him by taking knees and locking arms with fellow teammates as the national anthem was sung during NFL pregame ceremonies. Those practices have continued into this season, despite Kaepernick not being signed to a team. Players and sports talking-heads have debated whether or not Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league's owners for his protesting. The Ravens considered signing Kaepernick over the summer as starting quarterback Joe Flacco dealt with an injury, but the team signed another player instead.

Over the weekend, fans on both sides took to social media. Many said they stood in solidarity with the players, others agreed with the president, some even calling for boycotts of NFL games.

Nationally, CBS Sports reported their overall game viewership was up 4 percent over last year's Week 3, with an average rating of 11.9, compared to 11.4 last year. At NBC, Sunday's 11.6 rating for the Oakland Raiders-Washington Redskins game was down 10 percent from 2016, when the Chicago Bears-Dallas Cowboys game earned a 12.9 rating. Fox's telecast of the New York Giants-Philadelphia Eagles game earned a 10.3 rating, down 16 percent from the previous year.

National viewership numbers for this year's games should be available tomorrow, CBS spokeswoman Jen Sabatelle said.

On WJZ, Sunday morning's game attracted 27,000 fewer viewers than the Ravens' Sept. 17 home opener against the Cleveland Browns. The viewership was down about 4.7 percent from the Ravens' 2016 Week 3 broadcast.

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Sunday morning's Ravens-Jaguars game — which the Ravens lost, 44-7 — was not broadcast nationally, but could be streamed live on Yahoo. Attempts to reach NFL or Yahoo representatives to get viewership numbers from the live stream were not immediately successful.

In October 2015, when an NFL game was first made available via streaming, some 15.2 million unique viewers watched the game, with a total of 33.6 million video streams and 460 million total viewing minutes.


Baltimore Sun reporter Wesley Case contributed to this article.


UPDATE 5:33 p.m., Sept. 25: This article was updated to include data from Fox.