NBA, MLB Viewership Declines After Season-opening Social Justice Protests

August 3rd, 2020 6:22 PM

Here's a big no thank you from sports fans to the NBA and Major League Baseball! Both leagues felt some cold shoulders from alienated fans objecting to over-the-top social justice protests recently when they resumed play. Discontent has been evident in television ratings since the NBA started up with games at the bubble in Orlando's Disney World and baseball returned with regional play in team locations.

The Sports Rush blog reports:

"The NBA ratings crash has resulted from players, coaches and referees taking a knee during the national anthem and wearing a ‘black lives matter’ shirt."

After an impressive start on opening day, MLB saw TV ratings plummet as well. To a record low, The Sports Rush's Gautham Balaji notes.

Protests in both sports were intended to spread awareness about Black Lives Matter and so-called systemic racism in the U.S. But the fans -- already buffeted by corporate excesses on the systemic racism message for several weeks -- aren't totally buying in to the activism, Balaji says in his assessment:

"However, a lot of fans feel that kneeling during the national anthem is an utter disrespect to the government and the military that protects the country.

"Hence, a large section of the fans have asked to boycott the NBA, for promoting a ‘political’ agenda, when all it should be doing is, sticking to the sport."

Balaji also speculated that the fan rejection raises curiosity on how pro sports leagues address social issues going forward. 

Ethan Strauss, writing for The Athletic, Tweeted: “MLB really fell off after opening day. In general, both leagues aren’t getting the audience one might expect from a nation that’s been deprived of entertainment for months.”

This is not an overnight phenomenon, and audiences have not been deprived of constant accusations of American racism. Resentment has been building for weeks.

#BoycottNBA and #BoycottNFL hashtags have been trending on Twitter as far back as early July. Both leagues and their athletes let it be known well in advance that they were planning to rub social justice activism in the fans' faces, and the leagues have been tone deaf to the fallout expressed on social media. They dared their respective audiences to take it and reaped the negative consequences.

When play resumed, the NBA tried to feed fans a diet of questionable slogans on the back of their shirts and playing courts adorned with ‘'Black Lives Matter." There was no escaping the constant drumbeat of activism.

"The NBA has been struggling with their rating! … This is a bad look for the NBA," said Clay Travis on his Fox Sports Radio show. "People who are casual fans are gonna tune out, and that's exactly what's happened. Every other sport, when they came back, saw a massive surge in viewership. The NBA was flat-to-down."

Travis believes the NBA is trending toward "major issues with their brand going forward. And they're gonna have major issues with their brand going forward because they forgot about what it took when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson started to build the fan base. They forgot what it took when Michael Jordan was building the audience."

NBA ratings are now half what they were when Jordan was playing, and Travis predicts continued struggle for the league. He predicts the slogans come off the jersey soon and ESPN and TNT, which broadcast the games, will tell NBA executives "you're alienating a large portion of your fan base by going super woke … ."

Baseball viewership on opening day set new records, with 4 million people watching the Yankees beat the Nationals. However, after viewers saw so much social justice activism in pregame ceremonies in the first day's two broadcasts, viewership dropped off significantly in the days to follow.