Trump Bashes NBA Finals Ratings, Which Hit Historic Lows in 2020

President Donald Trump continued to drive a wedge between him and the National Basketball Association. On Monday, the president poked fun of the ratings from the NBA Finals, which plummeted about 70 percent from last year.

Sunday night's Game 6 between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat drew about 5.6 million viewers on ABC, according to Nielsen Media Research. The game drew less than half the audience of the "Sunday Night Football" game between the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.

The president tweeted about the NBA Finals ratings on Monday afternoon, saying that "maybe they were watching in China."

Viewership for NBA Finals Finale Crash Nearly 70%, Beaten by Random Sunday Night Football Game via @BreitbartNews Maybe they were watching in China, but I doubt it. Zero interest!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2020

The Lakers won Game 6 on Sunday, 106-93, to give the franchise its 17th NBA championship, which ties them with the Boston Celtics for the most in history. The Lakers have LeBron James, who is by far the most popular player on the planet, and one of the greatest in the history of the game. Even that didn't boost the ratings in an awkward year setback by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here's a quick comparison of viewers from Sunday night's NBA finale:

  • 5.6 million — Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals
  • 11.4 million — Sunday night NFL game
  • 18.4 million — Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals (Toronto Raptors over Golden State Warriors)
  • 36.9 million — Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals when Michael Jordan won the last of his six championships (87% more than the 2020 NBA Finals)
  • 5.6 million — Average viewers for "The Last Dance" documentary which chronicled Jordan's career
President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump looks on after presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Celtics basketball legend Bob Cousy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on August 22, 2019. Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

The NBA played a season like no other in its history. On March 11, after a player from the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus, the league suspended all games and activities until further notice. Multiple NBA players tested positive over the next few weeks.

The league announced it would restart its regular season at a "bubble" within the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Before the restart, though, social justice marches took place all over the country—particularly after the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Floyd was a Black man who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police. A video was posted online that showed [now former] Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd's last words heard in the video were "I can't breathe."

NBA players wanted to use their stature as pro athletes to send messages against social injustice and police brutality against Blacks. The league allowed players to post messages like: Equality, Black Lives Matter and other popular sayings on the backs of their jerseys. The league also had "Black Lives Matter" painted on all of the courts, it allowed players to wear warm-up shirts that had other messages, and the league allowed players to kneel during the national anthem as another way of protesting.

Meanwhile, President Trump has said that kneeling during the anthem and using sports as a way to protest social injustice was bad for business.

This continues a rift between him and the NBA. Whereas a sitting president typically invites league champions to the White House for a celebration, NBA teams during his tenure have said they would decline such invitations. The White House has also rescinded invitations after such public comments, like when the Golden State Warriors made them after one of their championships.

About the writer

Scott McDonald is a Newsweek deputy night editor based in Cape Coral, Florida. His focus is assigning and writing stories across all topics, from news to politics, business, weather, sports and international news. Scott joined Newsweek in 2018 after a lengthy career of print journalism in Texas, including The Dallas Morning News, where he was a sportswriter, and he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been a newspaper editor-in-chief and also a newspaper publisher. He is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. You can get in touch with Scott by emailing Languages: English

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