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How Did Trump Affect NFL Ratings? It Depends on Who You Ask

Members of the Detroit Lions take a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.Members of the Detroit Lions take a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.
Rey Del Rio—Getty ImagesRey Del Rio — Getty Images

In a bevy of criticism hurled at the National Football League and its players, President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that NFL ratings “are WAY DOWN” — a common attack the president uses against television shows since he took office.

That came after public outrage over Trump’s call last week for the NFL to dismiss or suspend NFL players who knelt during the national anthem — a silent protest first started last year by San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick, who knelt in protest of how police treated African Americans.

But did ratings in fact fall after Trump’s remarks? So far, it isn’t so easy to say.

On Monday, CBS Sports said its overall NFL game coverage on Sunday was up 4% in comparison to last week’s numbers.

But, NBC Sports told TIME Sunday night’s ratings were down about 10% from last week. And Fox Sports also saw ratings drop for afternoon games so far this year, falling 16% Sunday in comparison to the same time last year.

However, whether Trump fueled the ratings plunge for some networks is hard to assess for a variety of reasons. The lineup of games and teams from Sunday’s slate differ from that of last years, making the best way to tell whether ratings fell at all a lesson in waiting — at least until the end of the football season.