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Is MLB Losing ‘Tremendous Numbers of Fans,’ as Donald Trump Claims?

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Former President Donald Trump called for a boycott of Major League Baseball (MLB) on Friday in response to their decision to move the All-Star Game out of Georgia due to the state’s controversial new election law.

“Baseball is already losing tremendous numbers of fans, and now they leave Atlanta with their All-Star Game because they are afraid of the Radical Left Democrats who do not want voter I.D., which is desperately needed, to have anything to do with our elections,” Trump said in a statement issued by his Save America PAC.

“Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections. Are you listening Coke, Delta, and all!” he said.

Trump’s claim that MLB is “losing” a large number of fans comes after a season when people weren’t able to attend games in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, MLB had been suffering problems with game attendance before the pandemic struck the U.S. in March, 2020.

According to Associated Press (AP) national sports columnist Tim Dahlberg, MLB was experiencing “increasingly troublesome turnstile figures” as of 2019.

Writing on June 1 of that year, Dahlberg noted that there was a marked decline in attendance between 2007 and 2019. Attendance at Major League ballparks peaked at an average 32,785 per game in 2007 but had fallen to an average of 26,854 by the time of Dahlberg’s article.

The problem appears to long predate accusations that MLB is too “woke”, as Trump and other critics have charged, with Dahlberg’s analysis citing changes in how the game is played that were making it “hard to watch.”

The 2020 season saw fans barred from ballparks due to the pandemic. Those wanting to see a game had to tune in on their TVs or devices, and that’s produced mixed results for MLB.

Viewership of MLB games actually increased 4.2 percent over the course of the pandemic, according to a report from Forbes. At the same time, MLB ratings declined in large part due to changes undertaken by Nielsen.

As Forbes’ SportsMoney senior contributor Maury Brown noted on October 4, 2020 “not all of MLB’s regional sports networks are part of the paid service now provided by Nielsen.” However, MLB saw viewership growth in all age demographics.

Interestingly, the 2020 World Series, where the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, set a 20-year record low for average TV viewership. Just 9.78 million tuned in, compared to 13.91 million in 2019 and down from a peak of 25.47 million in 2004.

There’s certainly evidence to support the former president’s claim that MLB is losing fans but the picture is more complex than Trump is suggesting. The extraordinary conditions of the pandemic and the rise in viewership over the past year mean it’s difficult to be definitive about the interest MLB currently enjoys.

The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game Six to win the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 27, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. The 2020 World Series set a record low in TV viewership.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

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