National anthem protests don't appear to be hurting NFL ticket sales

WASHINGTON - It's still early in the process to get a full grasp of how the NFL national anthem protests are going to affect the league, but it certainly has been something that sparked conversation.

President Trump's base of supporters and those who take offense to players who take a knee during the anthem — a protest started by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to call attention to racial inequality and police brutality — have made their feelings known about their displeasure, some even calling for a boycott.

Is that having an effect? Not really, according to ticket brokers.

TickPick, where customers can bid on tickets for events, had a significant drop in NFL ticket sales last week, until the weekend. They were down 17.9% compared to the same week last year. At the time, CEO Brett Goldberg and director of client relations Jack Slingland said that while they've seen a drop in sales after Week 3 in years past, what they experienced last week was more significant.

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Looking at the data, they couldn't say for sure the protests were the reason — because you only get feedback from those who buy tickets and not from those who choose not to — but because there was so much press about the issue, it was something that had to be studied. 

Then over the weekend, they got a 9.6% increase in sales from the week before. 

This week, they've seen a 21.8% decrease in sales compared to before Week 4, but that was pretty much in line from the kind of decrease they've seen in recent seasons, which have been more than 30% lower in two of the past three years.

In a statement to USA TODAY Sports, the company said it expects the way the "NFL, the owners, the teams and the players handled last week’s games will reduce the volatility that we have seen in ticket sales."

At SeatGeek, the numbers seem to indicate very little, if any, change in buying habits. The company said that ticket prices have been pretty normal for the past two weeks.

The company said according to their sales data, they're seeing a similar number of transactions each week. So the conclusion here is that there either has been no impact from a call for a boycott or there is a number of folks buying tickets because of the publicity the league has been getting.

Not only have fans not stopped going to games, but they're watching on TV more than they did last year. Despite Trump's claim that TV ratings are down, the overall figures for the past two weeks say the opposite. Week 3 ratings were up 3% across all games from 2016, including a spike of 63% in the rating for Monday Night Football, the league announced last week. Overall, viewership for Monday Night Football is averaging 11.9 million through the first four weeks, a 5% increase from last year.

Fox’s NFL coverage for Week 4 drew a 12.6 rating and 26 share, a 14% increase over its Week 4 coverage a year ago. The network broadcast one game nationally on Sunday and the ratings were about 20% better than in the same slot covered by CBS in Week 4 of 2016.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football rating was unchanged from last year’s Week 4 game. The Seattle Seahawks’ blowout victory over the Indianapolis Colts resulted in a 11.0 rating and 19 share.

CBS was the one network to see a ratings dip for its national game (Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos), which began at 4:25 pm ET. That telecast had a 10.8 rating and an 18 share, a 23% decline when compared to Week 4 in 2016. 

Follow Kevin Spain on Twitter @kevin_spain.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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