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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been vocal about players kneeling during the national anthem since 2017. Jones’ stance aligned with that of the NFL and President Donald Trump. In June, after George Floyd’s death, the NFL’s position changed. The President’s, however, did not, and he has since called for an NFL boycott more than once. 

On Sunday, the Cowboys opened the 2020 NFL season with a loss against the LA Rams, 20-17. The final television ratings for the Sunday night game are in and they are lower than the year before. When Jones made his regular appearance on the radio this week, the Cowboys owner expressed surprise at the ratings and uncertainty of whether it was due to an NFL boycott or some other factor like the pandemic. 

NFL changes position, President calls for NFL boycott, and Jerry Jones remains silent

Back in 2017, Jerry Jones was quite clear on where he stood when it came to players kneeling during the national anthem. The NFL agreed at the time. In June, following the death of George Floyd and the birth of a national movement on social justice, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in response to the players, switched the league’s position and apologized for its previous stance not allowing players to peacefully protest.

Soon after, President Trump criticized the NFL for changing its stance. He suggested he wouldn’t watch if players kneeled, or an NFL boycott in essence. Jones, however, was quiet on the topic for months. When he did finally speak in August at training camp, the Dallas Cowboys owner waffled in his answer. In his most recent interview, Jones was more supportive of his players than ever before.   

“If our players are there, they are sensitive to and respect what America is as it relates to the flag. I’ll assure you that,” Jones said during an interview on 105.3 The Fan. “I’d hope that our fans — and I think they will — understand that our players have issues that they need help on. They need help from the majority of America. And we want to be an agent of that.”

In Sunday night’s season opener in LA, Dontari Poe was the lone Cowboys player to kneel.

NFL TV ratings show decline in certain areas

The NFL’s season-opening weekend arrived with great anticipation. Most fans were excited to see the NFL return simply because it was unclear just a few months ago whether or not a season would ever happen. The ratings, however, don’t necessarily reflect a completely enthusiastic audience. 

For the CBS national game on Sunday, 13.6 million viewers tuned in to watch according to Nielsen, which was a 12% drop from a year ago. Fox, however, saw a drastically different result. On its national telecast featuring the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees hosting Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Fox drew an audience of 25.8 million, or an 8% increase from 2019. It was the most-watched television program since the Super Bowl in February.

In addition to the national game, Fox also announced that their regional broadcasts had their best-performing Week 1 since the 2016 season, drawing an average viewership of 13.53 million, up 6% from last year.

That night, however, the NBC Sunday Night Football broadcast, which featured the Dallas Cowboys and LA Rams, saw a considerable dip to 18.9 million viewers, a 15% decline from a year earlier.   

Jones not sure if NFL boycott or pandemic is reason for SNF decline

This week, Jerry Jones made his regular appearance on 105.3 The Fan. When the Cowboys owner was asked if he thought the drop in ratings was a result of some type of NFL boycott by fans, the pandemic, or some other reason, Jones didn’t have any answers.

“I don’t know. I’m from the school I would think that we had a lot of people at home, that you had a lot of people we know, the interest that’s in sport. I think we do know that. So, I would have thought that that game with the Cowboys in it could have approached or exceeded what it had done in the past, at least in the past year. I don’t know what to make of that. 

“I think I know what the competition was. And, so, I was surprised, but, again, I’m not sure that any of us know the dynamics involved with the viewership during this pandemic, one way or the other. And that just brought that home. You need some more examples here to get a feel for what maybe going on in the viewing audience.” 

While Jones is unsure of the reasons for the drop in ratings on Sunday night’s broadcast of the Cowboys, he’s likely to get a much more definitive answer this Sunday when the Pokes play their first home game with limited fans in attendance. And he’ll have his answer early on when the national anthem is played.

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