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“Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison,” he tweeted. “Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!”
Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison. Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2018
The season’s first matchup, between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, had a total of 19 million viewers, well below last year’s season opener.
All players appeared to stand during the anthem, according to Mediaite, except Michael Bennett of the Eagles, who apparently sat at the end.
Trump has inserted himself in the cultural battle over whether players should be able to kneel in protest during the national anthem. After Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem to protest police violence two seasons ago, Trump and legions of football fans began criticizing players who chose to protest during the anthem.
The Eagles, who won last season’s Superbowl, were disinvited from the champion’s traditional visit to the White House because of the controversy.
“They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country,” a statement from Trump canceling the event said.
NEW: Trump issues this statement about the Philadelphia Eagles' visit tomorrow: pic.twitter.com/sYNltyFF7r
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) June 4, 2018
An otherwise innocuous stance has become a cultural flashpoint and a political statement. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz released an ad attacking his opponent, Beto O’Rourke, for the latter’s statement that exercising the right to peacefully protest is fundamentally American.
Last week, Nike revealed an ad featuring Kaepernick as its latest celebrity face, which led people to burn or otherwise destroy their Nike gear in protest.
Trump’s tweet comes after a controversial and chaotic week for his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, and as rumors continue to swirl regarding the identity of the writer of a deeply critical op-ed in the New York Times.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.