Ted Cruz Says NBA Ratings Hit By Support For 'Marxist' BLM Movement

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has suggested the NBA only has itself to blame for the low TV ratings that have blighted the NBA Finals so far, claiming the league "has decided to insult half of its fans" with its social justice stance.

Over the last few months, the NBA has been at the forefront of campaigns to end racial discrimination and police brutality and has thrown his support behind the Black Lives Matter movement, which Cruz dismissed as a "Marxist organization".

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has previously made clear the league supported BLM's broader values, rather than the organization directly.

"In terms of Black Lives Matter, we support it as a national movement," he said in an interview with PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff in August.

"Depending on estimates, roughly 25 million Americans have protested for social justice in the country."

The first three games of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers this year have drawn the lowest rating of any game in Finals history since ratings began and the Republican senator argued viewers had turned off because they had grown tired of the league's political views.

"I love watching NBA, I'm a die-hard Houston Rockets man. I have been since I was a little kid," he said on The Sean Hannity Show on Tuesday night.

"I think it's painful watching what the NBA, what they're doing right now, because they've essentially decided that half their fans are idiots and racists and they're just going to insult them and they're going to lecture them and when you watching NBA game now, it's just the announcers are engaged in political tirades the whole time."

The Texas senator acknowledged the NBA wanted to make a difference in the African America community, but had gone about it the wrong way.

"The NBA wanted to something really positive to make a difference in the African American community," he explained.

"Rather than supporting a Marxist organization like Black Lives Matter that's trying to abolish police departments, which endangers black communities, it would be great to see NBA players and coaches raising money for school choice, for scholarship, for low-income African American kids and Hispanic kids.

"That could make a real difference, but that doesn't fit with their social justice agenda."

Earlier on Tuesday, Cruz had replied to a tweet from Hannity about the ratings, suggesting the decline in viewership was far from surprising.

"Personally speaking, this is the first time in years that I haven't watched a single game in the NBA Finals. #GoWokeGoBroke," he tweeted, sparking a back-and-forth exchange with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

"A US Senator with 3 @NBA teams in his state, employing thousands of people and he is rooting for their businesses to do poorly," Cuban tweeted.

"This is who you are @tedcruz. Every minute of your life, this is exactly who you are."

According to official figures, the metered-markets average through the first three game of the NBA Finals fell to 10.1 from 12.6 last year. Game 3 on Sunday was the lowest-rated and least-watched NBA Finals game on record, averaging a 3.1 rating and 5.94 million viewers.

The previous two lows were both set earlier in the series, with Game 1 drawing a 4.1 rating and 7.41 million viewers, while Game 2 averaged a 3.6 rating and 6.61 million viewers.

In terms of rating and viewership, Game 3 marked a 60 percent and 56 percent drop from Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors and a 70 percent and 67 percent drop respectively from Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There are, however, mitigating circumstances for the drop in viewership. The reshuffling of the sporting calendar because of the coronavirus pandemic means a number of events that are normally held months apart from each other are now vying for the same viewership.

Game 1 and Game 2 of the NBA Finals on September 30 and October 2 have partially overlapped with the MLB postseason—the New York Yankees took on the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series, while the Los Angeles Dodgers played the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of the series on September 30 and the series decider between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Padres was held two days later—while Game 3 marked the first ever NBA Finals game to air on an NFL Sunday.

Sunday Night Football won the contest at a canter, drawing a 8.4 ratings and 15.08 million viewers.

Throughout the playoffs, the NBA has faced far sterner competition for viewers than it would have otherwise done in its traditional late May-early June slot.

All four major sports leagues, including college football, are in-season in September, causing increased competition and audience fragmentation. Four out of 11 combined games played in the Conference Finals overlapped primetime NFL games—two Thursday Night Football and two Sunday Night Football—and two games competed with college football on ABC.

Additionally, four out of 11 games overlapped with the Stanley Cup Finals and all but one clashed with the MLB regular season.

Ted Cruz
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) questions former FBI Director James Comey, who was appearing remotely, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 30 in Washington, D.C. Ken Cedeno-Pool/Getty