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The favorability rating of the National Football League continued its precipitous free fall this week — even among the league's most ardent fans.

And it gets worse. According to a new survey, the NFL is no longer America's favorite sport. Moreover, it's not even close.

As the Washington Examiner reports, barely a month into continuing on-field protests by players, and now coaches, the NFL has not only fallen from its once-lofty perch to the least liked among top professional sports — and top college sports as well.

  • From the end of August through the end of September, the NFL's favorable rating has dropped nearly 25 percent — 57 percent to 44 percent.
  • The league's 40 percent unfavorable rating is the highest of any major sport.
  • Favorability among core fans fell from 73 percent to 42 percent.
  • Unfavorable ratings among core fans rose from 19 percent to 47 percent.

According the Winston Group survey analysis:

"[M]ore more critically for the NFL, the fall off in favorables occurred among important audiences. Among males, NFL favorables fell 23 percent, going from 68 percent to 45 percent.

In looking at a more specific audience, males 34-54, NFL favorables fell 31 percent, going from 73 percent to 42 percent. Among this group the NFL has a surprising negative image, as it went from +54 percent in August to -5 percent in September."

The Washington Examiner summarized the poll's comparative favorable/unfavorable ratings between the NFL and other popular sports, both professional and collegiate:

End of August:

  • Major League Basebell: 61 percent favorable, 13 percent unfavorable.
  • NFL: 57 percent favorable, 23 percent unfavorable.
  • College football: 53 percent favorable, 16 percent unfavorable.
  • College basketball: 48 percent favorable, 17 percent unfavorable.
  • National Basketball Association: 47 percent unfavorable, 23 percent unfavorable.

End of September:

  • MLB: 63 percent favorable, 16 percent unfavorable.
  • College football: 51 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable.
  • NBA: 46 percent favorable, 28 percent unfavorable.
  • College basketball: 45 percent favorable, 25 percent unfavorable.
  • NFL: 44 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable.

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker offered some blunt advice a couple of weeks back to fans angry over the protests. In a word, “Bye,” he said:

“[T]he fans that don’t want to come to the game? I mean, OK. Bye. I mean, if you feel that’s something, we’re disrespecting you, don’t come to the game.

You don’t have to. No one’s telling you to come to the game. It’s your freedom of choice to do that.”

Clearly, millions of once-rabid NFL are following Walker's advice. To a T.

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