At the 2020 NBA Finals, ratings have dropped tremendously compared to last year, and the league’s vocal support for social justice issues has been suggested as one of the reasons for this.
According to TV Line, Sunday’s NBA final decision between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat – which the former won 106-93 to win the series 4-2 – drew 5.5 million viewers, but last year the last game between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors had an audience of 18.9 million, a 71 percent drop in attendance.
Game 5 drew 5.7 million viewers, a decrease of nearly 70 percent from 18.2 million who saw the same game last year.
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During the playoffs, there was evidence that the huge gap in attendance compared to last year was partly due to the NBA’s increasingly vocal response to social justice issues this season.
The slogan Black Lives Matter was displayed in the courts after George Floyd’s death by white police officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged with murder.
Players were also allowed to display BLM and equality news on their jerseys.
In August, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted a game against Orlando Magic after a black man named Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by Wisconsin police.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the news of the NBA’s falling ratings was “not surprising”. He added, “Personally, this is the first time in years that I haven’t seen a single game in the NBA finals. #GoWokeGoBroke ”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has suggested the league won’t be as explicit with its social justice news for the next season.
He said that while the NBA is “fully committed to social justice and racial equality,” he predicts “some return to normality over the next year, with these messages largely off the ground”.
While messaging has obviously been daunting to some of the NBA fan base this season, the sharp drop in ratings seems to have a number of factors.
Veteran NBA trainer George Karl no doubt had strong views and delivered an X-rated rant about the break-in that attacked US President Donald Trump.
There is talk of bad NBA ratings on television. There are many reasons for that. The league’s messages about social injustice are not one of them. But damn Trump !! And now I feel better …
– George Karl (@ CoachKarl22), October 6, 2020
According to KWWL.com, an NBA spokeswoman said health and safety were the number one concern in organizing this year’s finals rather than optimizing them for TV audience ratings.
The games were played in the “NBA bubble” of Walt Disney World in Florida behind closed doors as a result of the pandemic, which reduced the size of the product on display with no fans in the stadiums.
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In addition, the delay in the season caused by Covid-19 means that the final was played in direct competition with the NFL, which would not have been a problem if the season had ended in June as usual.
The NBA wasn’t the only sport to suffer such a decline, either.
According to Yahoo Finance, audiences for the NHL playoffs overall fell 25 percent – including a 61 percent drop for the Stanley Cup final – while MLB playoffs fell 39 percent. The NFL’s early viewership shows a 14 percent drop in viewership.
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