Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers (not shown) and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Buffalo Bills on October 16, 2016
New York (AFP) - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says a drop in television ratings has been caused by several factors but claimed Wednesday that the Colin Kaepernick flag-kneeling controversy was not among them.
Speaking at an NFL owners meeting in Houston, Goodell touched on several topics, including the crackdowns on social media and touchdown celebrations that have revived the NFL's "No Fun League" label.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players have taken a knee rather than stand during the pre-game playing of the US national anthem, a protest against police brutality.
Asked if the protests were turning people away from NFL telecasts, Goodell said, "We don't think that's a factor and neither do our network partners."
What factors have caused the NFL's ratings drop, however, Goodell couldn't say.
"It's something that I don't think there's a single reason for," Goodell said. "There are a lot of factors to be considered."
Two games were shown against debates between US Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and another was shown only on the NFL's cable network.
"We also know that the primetime ratings (night games) we're seeing the most dramatic decrease," Goodell said. "It went straight up against two very significant debates. Another one of our primetime games on Thursday night was on the NFL Network, as opposed to a (broadcast) network, which will always get a lower rating.
"We don't make excuses, we look at it and we try and figure out what's changing."
What is changing, Goodell noted, could be how people watch the game, with new technology opening the door for people to watch in ways that defy conventional ratings monitoring.
"It's why we've been doing more with Snapchat and YouTube and others. And it's why we did our work with Yahoo last year," Goodell said. "We're seeing these changes. We recognize that network television is still dominant, and we believe it's going to be dominant going forward. It's where the vast majority of our fans view our games.
"Our ratings are something we'll continue to look at and trying to make sure we're doing everything, not just to get them to tune in but to get them to stay tuned in."
Touchdown celebration taunting has been seen as policed inconsistently with no one certain what will draw a penalty.
"I don't think there's been a year where we don't look at this issue," Goodell said. "We do believe that our players are role models and others look at that at the youth level, so that's important for us to hold that standard up and it's part of being a professional."
Goodell also said the Oakland Raiders presentation regarding a possible move to Las Vegas was informative but work information remained to be obtained by the league. He said he would like the team to stay in Oakland but only with a new or vastly upgraded stadium.
"We've been clear the last couple of years that it requires long-term resolution to their stadium," Goodell said. "We still don't have that solution."