The legacy of Colin Kaepernick is hanging over the NFL like a dark cloud. During the 2016 NFL season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick became the subject of national outrage after he started kneeling during the national anthem to protest supposed police violence against black Americans. While Kaepernick is not playing in the 2017 season, he has left his mark on the NFL — and the 49ers.
The San Francisco 49ers faced off against the Los Angeles Rams Thursday night for their third game of the season. However, by kickoff, there were more empty seats than fans at Levi’s Stadium, as many fans continue to boycott the NFL over the protests sparked by Kaepernick. Multiple fans shared pictures on Twitter documenting the low attendance. Less than half of the seats were filled by game start.
According to SFGate, ticket sales for Thursday night’s game hit rock bottom. Ticket reseller, Stubhub, was selling tickets for Thursday night’s game for only $14, around the same price of a hotdog and a beer at the recently-built Levi stadium. The cheapest tickets were originally priced at $85.
Ticket search engine, TicketIQ, listed a slightly higher average price. “The current get-in price of $17 is the Niners’ cheapest game this season with an average asking price of $88 — also the cheapest of the season,” Explained Ralph Garcia, public relations spokesperson for TicketIQ.
“The average ticket price across all remaining home games for them is $179,” he continued. He added that the average list price of a ticket has declined 32 percent since 2014. Yet, Thursday was the 49ers “cheapest home game since the move to Levi’s.”
Since Colin Kaepernick launched his protest last year, the NFL has struggled to court viewers. A study released by J.D. Power and Associates last year suggests that about 30 percent of the fans who stopped watching football did so because of the national anthem protests, reports The Hollywood Reporter.
NFL started to see a dip in ratings last year, but concerns were brushed aside. The dip in ratings was blamed the 2016 presidential election, and was expected to return to normal this season.
Now, three weeks into the regular season, it appears that ratings and in-game attendance are unlikely to recover. Fewer people are watching the NFL today than there has been in years, perhaps decades.
The NFL was optimistic heading into the 2017 season after making a number of changes, such as reducing the number of commercial breaks, and allowing players to celebrate touchdowns with end zone dances, however, according to Guggenheim Securities expert, Michael Morris, “Early results do not support this optimism.”
“Continued declines in NFL ratings again this season will likely place further downward pressure on media stocks,” Morris said, adding that, “the NFL is an indicator of overall primetime programming ratings performance.”
At a rally in Alabama Friday night, President Trump compounded the NFL’s woes by encouraging football fans to boycott games if players keep protesting the national anthem. “When you see it, leave the stadium. I guarantee you it will end,” the president said, but it seems that many football fans have already got the message.