California State University East Bay

Angry NFL fans flock to product

December 10, 2014


Flickr | Barry Schwartz

In terms of public relations, there has never been a darker time in National Football League history than the 2014 season. The league continues to dominate headlines for all the wrong reasons, and yet the money continues to pour into the owners’ pockets at unprecedented levels.

It appears that no matter how many legal issues the players get into, no matter how many former players sue the league over concussions and brain damage, and no matter how haphazardly Commissioner Roger Goodell runs the league, America just can’t stop consuming the product.

According to the Nielsen ratings, 23 of the top 25 most-viewed programs this fall have been NFL games, and an average-rated NFL game is still viewed by more Americans than the title-deciding games in the NBA, NHL, and MLB in 2014.

Football enjoys an untouchable monopoly over sports media at the college and professional level.

However, common sense dictates  when a company suffers a severe public relations issue there will be backlash. Why is the NFL getting a free pass?
The league’s ‘time heals all wounds’ approach to governing itself appears to have been flawlessly executed. Last Friday, domestic abuser Ray Rice was reinstated to the NFL after his indefinite suspension by an arbitration court.

The court found that Commissioner Roger Goodell’s failure to make unilateral punishments and choose case-by-case suspensions violated the league and players’ union’s collectively bargained agreement. While the media covered this decision extensively, the reinstatement of Rice symbolized exactly what the league wanted: an end to the domestic violence storyline.

The league made half-hearted attempts at spreading awareness of domestic violence issues, such as the “No More” campaign featuring current and former players, but the league’s real statement was made when Rice was suspended indefinitely after his original suspension of two games.

They are reactionary, and they do what the public dictates but only as long as the public dictates it.

After the media dropped the Ray Rice storyline, the league realized that with no financial hit from the saga, the crisis was over and it was time to act like nothing happened.

The real heart of the matter is the consumers of the league are fans, who often don’t consider themselves supporters of the league, but of one franchise.
Fans voiced their displeasure with the league, but continue to buy tickets to support their teams, and continue to buy merchandise and media coverage because they’re showing their loyalty to a franchise, not the corporate headquarters.

The league office acts as the bogeyman while the teams rake in the profits, and thus the league makes money despite the disdain.
Until fans stop buying tickets and merchandise from their local teams, the league as a whole will not change.

They’ll simply react to public opinion, then let time heal all wounds.

For all that the NFL has failed at over the past few years, it’s hard to argue that their solution to the domestic violence PR disaster was anything other than brilliant – for them.

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