elevision ratings for the NFL’s Week 3 games were up 3% across all games from 2016, including a spike of 63% in the rating for Monday Night Football, the league announced Tuesday morning.
Last year’s Week 3 Monday Night Football game went head-to-head with a presidential debate.
That data runs counter to claims from President Trump that ratings are lagging, and would drop off last weekend in particular as numerous players around the league engaged in some sort of protest during the national anthem.
The entire Cowboys team, including coaches and owner Jerry Jones, took a knee before the anthem was played before Monday’s game against Arizona. The Cowboys stood, with arms linked, during the performance of the anthem.
“It has never been about respect for the flag. I think that narrative was debunked last night,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Tuesday morning.
Protests during the anthem began last year, first by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, as a way to raise awareness about perceived racial inequalities, police brutality and other social injustice. Other players, like Denver’s Brandon Marshall, Miami’s Kenny Stills, Philadelphia’s Malcolm Jenkins, and San Francisco’s Eric Reid, joined in some form of protest. A handful of players, including Seattle’s Michael Bennett, continued the protests early in the 2017 season.
Now the NFL and players are trying to refocus attention not on the anthem, but on the motive behind the initial protests.
“The effort should not be simply about showing you can protest. Focusing the issues, raising awareness of the issues and moving to progress. We need to turn the attention to what we are actually doing, we the players,” Lockhart said. “They’re doing important work in their communities, they’re making a difference. Whatever you think of what’s happened the last four or five days, people are more aware of these issues than they were Friday at 9 o’clock.”