Taking a Knee: The Impact of Protest on NFL Viewership

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Jacob Miller Ella T Tulchinsky Adam Jolly


The ongoing national anthem protests in the National Football League (NFL) spawned controversy since they began in the 2016-17 season. Coupled with an evolving broadcast market, this poses challenges for the NFL. Using data from 329 NFL games played between the 2014-15 and 2017-18 seasons, this study models demand for televised NFL games. Expanding on the current literature, this study examines the impact of "taking a knee" (i.e., kneeling in protest during the national anthem) on televised viewership. Results from ordinary least-squares (OLS) analyses reveal that the protest variable has a significant and negative impact on viewership per game. Streaming games through Amazon, Verizon, and Twitter did not have a significant impact on televised viewership, while the growing number of Roku users negatively affects televised viewership. Implications for NFL revenues are discussed. (Z13, Z21)

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