Is smaller Jaguars crowd due to national anthem controversy?

2nd lowest turnout since 2009 for NFL game at EverBank Field

By Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor , Scott Johnson - Reporter
Headline Goes Here Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images

Members of the Jacksonville Jaguars stand during the national anthem prior to the start of Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams at EverBank Field.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nearly 5,500 fewer fans were ticketed for Sunday's Jaguars-Rams game Sunday than at the 2017 home opener last month -- the team's last game in EverBank Field and before the controversy over protests during the national anthem sparked a national political debate and calls for a boycott of the NFL.

All Jacksonville and Los Angeles players stood for the anthem Sunday, although there were some isolated players around the league that took a knee or remained in the locker room.

Last month, President Donald Trump suggested at a campaign rally that players should be fired if they don't stand for the anthem and later tweeted that people should walk out if they see a player take a knee. Last Sunday in Indianapolis, Vice President Mike Pence did walk out of a game after a player knelt during the anthem.

Nationally, efforts to boycott games and even advertisers have gained momentum. Attendance across the league through the first five weeks of the season nationally is down 18 percent, and national Nielsen data show television ratings are off 7.4 percent -- although that trend began before the anthem controversy went viral.

Fox did not televise the national anthem live during Sunday's games, which prompted a new call for a boycott of Fox and its advertisers.

Some Jaguars fans have vowed not to attend games, and some season ticket holders have requested and received refunds do to their objection to the players' protest and of owner Shad Khan's support of their right to do so.

But is that the reason that fewer fans held tickets to the Jags-Rams game?

Jaguars attendance, ratings comparisons

The team won't talk about requests for season ticket refunds, only saying each is handled on a case-by-case basis. Spokesman Dan Edwards did point out two possible factors in the crowd size:

  • 5,000 tickets were given to first-responders for the Sept. 17 Titans game that probably boosted that crowd size.
  • Fans of West Coast teams don't travel to Jacksonville in the numbers that fans of East Coast teams will.

Those who did attend the game at EverBank Sunday may have noticed a small plane towing a banner saying, "Be American. Boycott the Jags and NFL."

The banner didn't go unnoticed by team management.

"We see things on social media, too. People expressing opinions. That's fine," Edwards said.

News4Jax sports director Sam Kouvaris doesn't assume the below-normal attendance Sunday is all anthem related.

"I think it’s a confluence of things. One is a 4 o'clock game has never been popular in Jacksonville. It’s the 7 or 7:30 finish. Don’t forget the fact that Florida played at home Saturday night," Kouvaris said.

Kouvaris believes the Jags will see a 10-13 percent drop in business as a reaction to the protests.

"People are still mad. We are a military town. Whether you served in the military or not, you have friends that are (serving). And people have very specific opinions about the Jaguars' actions in London," Kouvaris said.

While ticket sales may be lower, Jacksonville viewers are watching the Jaguars on television more this year than last. Ratings for the first four games of the season higher all higher than during the first month of the 2016 season.

Jaguars Coach Doug Marrone said Monday that the size of the crowd didn't faze him.

"The only thing I’m concerned about right now is our football team and the way we’ve performed on Sunday," Marrone said. "I just want to make sure that we can go out there and win football games. I really don’t know a lot about what’s going on around me or how many people were there or anything of that nature."

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