- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2017

NFL ticket prices have plummeted in the wake of the uproar over the national anthem protests, dropping for the first time this year below the 2016 season’s prices.

An analysis released Friday by CNBC found that ticket prices during the first three games of the 2017 season enjoyed a 20-40 percent increase over last year, but then skidded in Week 4 and actually dropped by 2 percent in Week 5.

The timing coincides with the uproar following President Trump’s criticism of the protests on Sept. 22, which prompted nearly 200 players to sit or take a knee during the national anthem in the Sept. 24-25 games in Week 3.

“After the president’s comments and NFL player reactions, Week 4 saw only a 5 percent increase, and now we’re seeing an outright decline. So that’s a bad direction,” said CNBC’s Eric Chemi.

The figures, based on data from the website Ticket IQ, come with the national anthem protests losing steam in the two weeks since Mr. Trump suggested team owners should fire any “son of a bitch” who refuses to stand.

None of the players apparently sat or took a knee at the Thursday night game, the first match-up of Week 5, continuing a trend that saw the number of players protesting drop from nearly 200 in Week 3 to about 50 in Week 4.

CBS Sports didn’t air “The Star-Spangled Banner” as part of its coverage of the Patriots-Buccaneers game Thursday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, prompting some gripes on social media from fans keeping track of the high-profile protest.

Fortunately for anthem-watchers, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times was on the scene and reported that there were no kneelers on the sidelines.

“The Bucs held a moment of silence before the national anthem as fans were asked to hold up their cellphones with lights on in memory of the victims of this week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas,” said Mr. Auman. “The national anthem was sung without incident, with all players from both teams standing and no players kneeling in protest.”

CBS did show shots of fans shining lights from their phones in honor of the shooting victims as well as players bowing their heads during the moment of silence.

The take-a-knee protests began last season as a statement against racism and police brutality by players like former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not been signed this season.

The NFL has since taken hits from both sides, with Kaepernick supporters calling for a boycott until he has been hired by a team and protest foes vowing to tune out.

A Seton Hall University poll released Sept. 29 found that 29 percent of fans said they were watching fewer games this season, and of those, 47 percent blamed the take-a-knee protests.

Other factors listed by CNBC that could be dragging down ticket prices include game match-ups, weather, and underperforming teams.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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