As critics of the "woke" NFL celebrate the league’s declining television ratings, those proclamations appear to be premature.

The league’s season opener did see a decline in viewership, but there were some positive signs for the first NFL Sunday of the 2020 season. The sport’s marquee afternoon game was a ratings success.

Fox’s broadcast for the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints drew 25.8 million viewers. That marked an 8% increase from last year when 23.9 Americans watched the Dallas Cowboys defeat the New York Giants in Fox’s late-afternoon national broadcast.

Even at 43 years old, Tom Brady is still a top draw for the NFL. The greatest quarterback of all time made his debut with Tampa Bay after spending two decades with New England, where he won six Super Bowls.

The rest of the afternoon slate was a mixed bag for the NFL. Fox’s regional coverage drew 13.5 million viewers, an increase of 7%. CBS’s coverage of games drew 13.6 million viewers for a 7.4 rating, which was a 12% dip compared to 2019.




The first “Sunday Night Football” matchup of the season was a disappointment for the league. An average of 18.94 million people watched the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Dallas Cowboys in a close game. That was a 15% decrease from last year’s opening Sunday night contest between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

It was the lowest-rated Sunday night opener in 12 years.

The 2020 Kickoff Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans featured a 16.1% ratings hit compared to last year. Several media pundits blamed the declining ratings for social justice demonstrations that both teams participated in during the national anthem and shortly before the game began.





Polling indicates that most Americans don’t have a problem with athletes using their platform to express their views. A Washington Post poll indicates that 56% of Americans believe it is appropriate for athletes to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

Super Bowl LIV drew an average of 102 million viewers in February, up from 100.7 million viewers in the 2019 NFL championship game.

Tom Brady is sacked during a losing debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the New Orleans Saints Tom Brady is sacked during a losing debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the New Orleans Saints Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Chris Graythen