Is Colin Kaepernick Hurting NFL Ratings? We'll Find Out This Sunday

Story tools

A A AResize


Who is the wokest player in the NFL? Who has the No. 1-selling jersey in the NFL without starting one game all season? Who has the flyest sports Afro since Julius “Dr. J” Irving? Who started a protest that exposed half of the on-air NFL analysts for the closet racists that they are?

Just talking about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick has been riding the bench since the middle of last season behind perennial mediocre quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Now that the team has lost every game since the start of the season, 49ers coach Chip Kelly is putting Kaepernick in the game, having announced Tuesday that the quarterback would start against Buffalo this Sunday. That means that this Sunday, a confluence of ratings, politics, race and economics will come crashing together like a linebacker on a helpless receiver.

Which raises the question: Can Kaepernick even play anymore? And if so, what does his hitting the field do to protests across the league? The answer is harder to untangle than a goal line pileup.

Kaepernick’s return to the starting job for the 49ers couldn’t come at a more critical time for social-justice movements or the NFL as a whole. In the wake of the Charlotte, N.C., protests, more police shootings and a GOP presidential nominee’s advocacy of national stop and frisk, sports networks and some team owners were quietly trying to tamp down coverage of players protesting for justice. Kaepernick’s return to the field brings all of those issues back to the forefront.


Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines against the Arizona Cardinals during their NFL football game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2016.

On the NFL side, this season has been an absolute mess, and Kaepernick may be the cause or the cure. Television ratings are down in the league across the board. After Hulk-like ratings growth for almost 30 straight years, prime-time ratings of NFL games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday are down anywhere from 10 to 20 percent in some markets from last year alone.

Read more here.