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Super Bowl LVIII, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, Viewership, DEI programs, football

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Super Bowl LVIII made history as the most-watched American television broadcast in decades, according to Neilsen.

On Feb. 11, the explosive game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers drew in an average of 123.7 million viewers, breaking Super Bowl viewership records from 2023.

The highly anticipated showdown in Las Vegas surpassed the previous record-holding Super Bowl LVII when the Chiefs staged a remarkable comeback against the Philadelphia Eagles in front of 121 million viewers. The viewership for Super Bowl LVIII was so significant that it nearly rivaled the all-time most-watched television broadcast for the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, which drew in an estimated 125 to 150 million viewers, CNN noted.


Super Bowl ratings were plummeting before the big rise.

Ratings for the Super Bowl were on a sharp decline before the event’s giant comeback this year and last. In 2015, over 114.4 million viewers around the world flocked to their TV screens to watch the New England Patriots win against the Seattle Seahawks. Viewership dropped to 111.8 during the Denver Broncos’ showdown against the Carolina Panthers in 2016 — the same year that former NFL football star Colin Kaepernick took a kneel to protest racial injustice and police brutality. The 36-year-old athlete’s bold act of protest landed him in hot water with the NFL.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media during an interview about his decision. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Ratings continued to nosedive in 2017, 2018, 2019 with viewership totaling 111,319, 103,471 and 98,477, respectively. It’s unclear if Kaepernick’s bold act of protest had anything to do with the noticeable decline, but his silent demonstration inspired other football players to use their platform to protest issues impacting minorities across the U.S. In response, the NFL released its diversity, equity and inclusion programs (DEI) aimed to create unity and more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. Those initiatives compounded shortly after the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.


DEI programs decline after Colin Kaepernick’s bold stand.

Big Tech companies, like Google and Meta, also initiated new programs to support their Black employees in response to nationwide protests sparked by Floyd’s death. In 2020, Google CEO Sundar Pichai launched a trove of DEI programs for Black employees with the aim “to build sustainable equity for Google’s Black+ community, and externally, to make our products and programs helpful in the moments that matter most to Black users,” CNBC reported. They vowed to increase underrepresented groups by 30%  and to double the number of Black employees at non-senior levels by 2025, but the positive initiatives did not last long.

The DEI purge began in 2022 when around 33% of DEI employees lost their jobs. By mid-2023, DEI-related job postings had plummeted by 44% compared to the previous year, CNBC noted. By November 2023, the trend continued, with a 23% year-over-year decrease in DEI-related job postings, marking a significant downturn in the trajectory of these initiatives.

Excitement for the NFL is here to stay, but diversity is no longer a focal point for big industries it seems.


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The Thrill Is Gone: NFL More Popular Than Ever As Boycotts, DEI Programs Fade Away  was originally published on