CBS chairman: Anthem protests hurt NFL ratings last season

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Thearon W. Henderson / Stringer / Getty Images

The NFL was met with an eight percent decline in television viewership last season, and at least one network believes anthem protests had something to do with it.

CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus spoke during NFL Media Day in New York on Wednesday and revealed his network's findings in relation to the dip in ratings.

"I think if you look at some of the reasons why NFL viewership was down last year, that is a reason that's mentioned by a fair amount of viewers," McManus said, according to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated. "It is something they don't find attractive or they don't find compelling in coverage of the football game. How big a factor it was? I don't really know. But it was one of the factors that I think perhaps led to the slight decrease in ratings last year."

Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, first sat on the bench during the national anthem before electing to take a knee. He continued the practice all season in an effort to protest racial injustices in America. The act was mirrored by a number of NFLers.

While McManus believes those protests turned some viewers off, he believes the biggest factor in the ratings decline was the coverage of the 2016 presidential election which ramped up during the first quarter of the NFL season.

"Then there was the retirement of Peyton Manning, the fact that Tom Brady wasn't playing the first four weeks. J.J. Watt not playing, I think those storylines were a factor," McManus said.

Anthem protests have returned during this year's preseason, with some players kneeling, others praying, and some raising a fist during "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Though the protests don't appear to be going away, McManus believes the ratings will rebound this season.