NFL players taking a knee to raise awareness for social injustice has turned into a controversy that might cause the league to lose money.
DirecTV, the host network for the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is a package for viewers to watch any game around the league, is going to allow some its customers to cancel their subscriptions and get a refund if they cite the players' protests during the national anthem as a reason, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Sunday Ticket is one of the NFL’s premier franchises, earning it $1.5 billion a year in licensing revenue, the Journal said. If a large number of customers cancel, it could hurt the NFL as it tries to build back up its TV ratings, which have been going down for the past couple of seasons.
AT&T, DirecTV's parent company, did not respond to messages left by USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.
Controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem picked up steam after President Trump called out the league during a speech in Alabama over the weekend. Trump then followed up over the next few days with a series of tweets.
Several NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell responded by saying they supported their players' rights to free speech. Some industry experts believe this wasn't a good move by the league.
"The NFL made the worst branding move in the modern history of sports," brand and reputation management expert Eric Schiffer told USA TODAY Sports. "Their move alienates conservatives who view respect for the flag with fervent love."
Still, the NFL announced ratings were up for last week's games, the largest increase was for Monday Night Football, which saw a 63% increase in viewers over the same week last year. Overall, ratings were up 3% for the weekend.