The 49ers say Kaepernick will start Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, replacing Blaine Gabbert.
The National Football League is on the verge of panic. Television ratings for games have plummeted this season, and some of the mostly white sports reporters who cover the league say they know what the problem is:
The Colin Kaepernick Effect.
The 49ers quarterback has become a target for all fans who hate Black Lives Matter, and news organizations such as The Sporting News are speculating that fans are boycotting watching games on television because African-American players like Kaepernick are showing support for Black Lives Matter by choosing to kneel during the national anthem or raising a fist in protest while the anthem plays.
On Sunday, all eyes will be on Kaepernick because 49ers coach Chip Kelly has announced Kaepernick will start for the first time this season in place of struggling Blaine Gabbert. The 49ers have lost four in a row. Undoubtedly, some of conservative sports media will be ready to pounce on Kaepernick if he protests during the anthem and the 49ers lose.
Sporting News reporter Michael McCarthy insists Kaepernick and his brothers in protest are clearly the reason for the falling TV ratings.
The NFL is dreaming if it thinks the alarming double-digit drop in TV ratings this season has nothing to do with a fan backlash against Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the American flag and national anthem.
TV ratings for “Sunday Night Football” and “Monday Night Football” are off by a whopping 16 to 20 percent so far this season, Nielsen told Sporting News on Monday.
Yet in an internal memo last week, NFL executives found “no evidence that concern over player protests during the national anthem is having any material impact on our ratings.” Instead, the league blames “unprecedented interest” in the U.S. presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
In other words, nothing to see here. Move along.
Is the NFL kidding us?
Far right newspaper The Washington Times cites a Rasmussen poll that includes unscientific results from an online poll along with some telephone polling:
Nearly one-third of American adults say they are less likely to watch a National Football League game because of the growing number of Black Lives Matter protests that are happening by players on the field, a Rasmussen poll found.
Thirty-two percent polled online and by telephone said they’re willing to skip NFL games this year because of player protests over racial issues, the pollster said on Tuesday. Only 13 percent said they were more likely to watch the games because of the protests, and 52 percent said the protests had no impact on their viewing decisions.
Twenty-eight percent of African Americans said they were more likely to tune-into an NFL game because of the protests, compared to 8 percent of whites and 16 percent of other Americans, the poll found.
Whites were twice as likely as blacks to say they are less likely to watch this year.
CNN also has weighed in on the slumping ratings but is taking a more moderate view. CNN.com reported:
Indeed, the whole presidential election, and all the attention it’s gotten, could be a big factor. That’s one reason the NFL itself has been saying it’s not worried. An internal memo sent around the league on Friday and obtained by ESPN’s Darren Rovell attributed the overall drop to several factors, including the dearth of marquee pairings and the presidential race.
“The NFL continues to be far and away the most powerful programming on television, and the best place for brands and advertisers,” the letter said.
One thing seems certain: ratings for the 49ers game on Sunday are likely to be among the highest of the season as fans tune in to see if Kaepernick kneels or raises a fist.