As professional athletic leagues continue to delve into the political realm, many viewers are apparently deciding to tune out.
According to recent ratings shared by Breitbart, the NBA has lost roughly 25% of its audience since 2019 and viewership has dropped by nearly half since 2011.
“In a league all its own”
OutKick documented the dramatic decline and its founder, Clay Travis, believes a prevailing social justice narrative has contributed to a pronounced dip in the ratings.
NBA broadcasts on ESPN, ABC, and TNT are off by about 45% over the past decade. OutKick writer Bobby Burack argues that the long period of decline rebuts the idea that numbers are down strictly because of COVID-19.
He noted that “cord-cutting has hurt all TV programs,” but the NBA’s brand of social commentary puts it “in a league all its own” in terms of shedding viewers.
Burack asserted that “when a brand then tells half the country they are racist criminals, maybe even terrorists, its viewers leave, sinking that number even further.”
“I want to watch a game”
Pro sports leagues have become increasingly political since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in protest of police brutality in 2016.
In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, demonstrations broke out nationwide as athletes and teams continued to grow more engaged in social matters and leading some fans to find the resulting games unwatchable.
Further indicating that sagging NBA ratings are tied to politics, the traditionally apolitical Major League Baseball organization appears to be performing well, though its decision to move this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta, Georgia, amid pressure from Democrats has led to some backlash against the league.
Similarly, Travis noted that the NFL draft and Preakness Stakes both saw improved ratings this year even as the NBA’s numbers continue to fall, asserting that the pro basketball league is “turning off a huge segment of America.”
Some pro athletes have spoken out against the injection of politics into the sports arena, including retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who said:
I know when I turn on a game, I want to watch a game. I want to watch players play and teams win, lose, come from behind. I want to watch all the important parts of the game, not what’s going on outside of the game, and I think the general fan feels the same way. … I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “I don’t watch anymore; it’s not about the game anymore.” And I tend to agree.