Are Anthem Protests Driving NFL Fans Away?


The National Football League claims attendance is only down one percent this year despite player protests of the national anthem.

A league spokesman told NBC News last month that overall ticket sales are down 2 percent over last year, in part to reduced seating capacity for the Los Angeles teams. Excluding those two teams, ticket sales are down one percent.

NFL stadiums are still seeing a lot of empty seats in recent weeks, but one ticket broker says that's more to do with the product on the field than anything else.

“It just comes down to whether people want brave the elements or sit through a game that may be a game they think their home team is going win,” says Anbritt Stengele, president of Sports Traveler, which organizes packaged trips to sporting events.

A recent Reuters poll found 37 percent of Americans said their view of the NFL was less favorable after the protests.  Stengele says she’s only heard one complaint from roughly 1,000 clients this year.

“Her concern was she said she thought it would make her feel uncomfortable if the athletes did indeed kneel, but she still ended up taking the trip with us.”

There are plenty of tickets available on the NFL ticket exchange for this weekend's Texans-49ers game -- some for as low as $40.

“People who maybe don’t want to pay when prices are a premium, this option now is open at a lower price point and opens to a totally different market of people, those with families and people who don’t care who wins but just want to experience game day,” says Stengele.

Stengele also has seen an increase of clients traveling from outside the U.S., adding the NFL has done a good job marketing the league Mexico and UK.


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