This article from ESPN was quite a surprise to me, because the semi-official line of the NFL, up until now, has been “We are not losing viewers due to the protests, the real problem is bad play and bad officiating, only a tiny minority of wingnut extremists are turning off their TVs or staying home from the games because of the protests.”
The Baltimore Ravens are now explicitly admitting this isn’t the case, perhaps in an attempt to win back fan support:
The Baltimore Ravens sent a letter this week to season-ticket holders, suite holders and sponsors about the number of no-shows at M&T Bank Stadium this season, citing a protest during the national anthem as one potential reason.
The letter, which was signed by team president Dick Cass, mentions that there have been empty seats in the past when the Ravens have struggled on the field. But this year is different, with Baltimore in the midst of a playoff race.
“The numbers [of no-shows] are higher, and it is noticeable,” Cass wrote in the 656-word letter. “There are a number of reasons for the no-shows, but surely the one-time protest in London has been a factor.”
According to Cass, the Ravens reached out to a number of fans who wrote to the team or called about the protest. Cass also personally made a number of phone calls and met with some fans, the letter stated.
“We want the Ravens to continue to be a strong, unifying force and source of pride in our community,” Cass wrote. “When the Ravens win, we can bring families and the community together. We’ve done that before, and we can do it again.