- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2018

President on Sunday relished declining viewership for the first game of the NFL season, saying the national anthem controversy was to blame.

“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,” he tweeted. “If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!”

Although ratings are down, including a 9.7 percent drop in veiws in the 2017 season, NFL games remain a major television draw. Last year, 20 of the 30 highest-rated shows on TV were football games, according to Nielsen.

Mr. Trump put himself at the forefront of outrage over pro-football players taking a knee or staging other protests during the national anthem at games.

The player protests, which are aimed at police shootings and unequal justice for minorities, began in 2016.

The NFL fumbled its response. It put on hold a new policy to fine teams when players aren’t on the field and standing for the anthem.

To avoid the controversy, ESPN stopped airing the anthem ceremony.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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