The NFL is still the biggest TV juggernaut around.

For years though, the NFL has been mired in controversy and ratings were down.

But the NFL got huge news about ratings and the numbers are up for this one reason.

During the 2021 season, the NFL averaged 17.1 million viewers during the regular season.

These were the biggest regular season ratings since 2015.

ProFootballTalk reports:

The league has announced that the 2021 NFL regular season generated an average audience of 17.1 million. That’s a 10-percent bump over 2020 and the highest full-season average since 2015.

During the 2021 regular season, NFL games ranked as 48 of the top 50 shows on TV.

For the first time ever, the NFL regular season consisted of 272 games, spread over 18 weekends. Of those games, 175 were within one score in the fourth quarter.

The top TV draws this season were the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers with the Cowboys drawing a bonkers 40 million viewers for their Thanksgiving Day game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The numbers being the biggest ratings since 2015 was significant.

2015 was the last season before San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting the national anthem.

That debate dominated the NFL for the next five seasons.

The league’s national anthem crisis reached a nadir in the 2020 season when the NFL fully embraced the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Fans were not happy with the NFL allowing players to wear the names of black Americans killed by the police on their helmets and the league painting Black Lives Matter slogans in the endzone.

NFL executives quickly realized they had a problem when the first game of the 2020 season featured a moment of silence for Black Lives Matter and the fans in Kansas City booed.

The NFL quietly moved away from Black Lives Matter and the national anthem protests during the 2021 season and that fact – combined with fans being back in the stands – led to the NFL posting its strongest ratings since the season before Colin Kaepernick turned the league upside down.

Sports with Balls will keep you up-to-date with any new developments in this ongoing story.