President Trump went after ESPN host Jemele Hill one day after she was suspended.
ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks on Monday for criticizing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on social media. She had said he “created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones. If they don’t kneel, some will see them as sellouts.”
Her post was in reference to Jones’s statement that any Dallas Cowboys player who “disrespects the flag” during the National Anthem will not play.
Some players have taken to kneeling instead of standing during the anthem to protest police killings of African-Americans, a movement started by Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.
On Tuesday morning, Trump questioned the NFL’s “massive tax breaks,” then weighed in with another tweet: “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked,’ in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”
But have ESPN ratings really “tanked”?
ESPN had 90 million subscribers as of September 2016, the most recent numbers it has reported. That’s down 2 million from a year earlier and down from a high of 100 million in 2010.
So the vast majority of U.S. homes continue to pay for cable, including ESPN. But as the monthly cable bundle has become more and more expensive, and streaming has become more popular, some homes have dropped the big bundles that include ESPN. Others have discontinued cable altogether and turned to streaming services.
The cutbacks have put pressure on ESPN and other sports networks. To address this, ESPN is planning to roll out a direct-to-consumer streaming service next year.
ESPN declined to comment.