The NFL — Wrecking A Brand

Big Red Car here on a cool Monday, bit cloudy in the ATX. This weekend the NFL went to work in a serious way to wreck its brand. It was a damn good start.

If you have the American flag, the Star Spangled Banner, veterans, patriots and patriotism, Mother Goose, and Donald Trump on one side while the NFL and some 13% of its players are on the other side, which side do you want? Which one walks away with the win or the lesser amount of damage? You decide.

Let’s review the bidding, shall we?

Last season, we had twenty-nine year old Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem. When asked, “Why?” Colin responded, “To protest police oppression of people of color.”

Mr. K went on to cite the case of Trayvon Martin as an example of the police oppression he was protesting. Of course, Trayvon Martin was killed by a security guard named Zimmerman, not a cop. There are a few kinks to work out with Colin’s messaging, but the general thrust is to highlight police misconduct, police misconduct which unfairly targets people of color.

If true — and the Big Red Car certainly thinks it merits a careful analysis — it is worthy of our consideration and attention.

Colin K, subsequently, opted for free agency and as of yesterday remains unemployed.

This year, we have had a rash of other players — ESPN puts it at 13% of all players this past weekend — take a knee or stay in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem. A game played in London this past weekend had players taking a knee for the US National Anthem and standing for God Save the Queen, leaving Londoners completely confused.

Today, we discuss not the reasons why this phenomenon is spreading about the NFL, but its impact on the brand, the NFL brand.

The National Football League

The NFL, with roots going back to 1920, is composed of thirty-two teams subdivided equally between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. Each conference has four divisions.

Each team is individually owned and is a “for profit” business except for the Green Bay Packers who are a non-profit organization. The teams pay taxes on their earnings (except for Green Bay).

The NFL plays a seventeen week schedule (September to December) with each team playing sixteen games and each having one bye week.

At the end of the season, six teams from each conference (top four by record and two wild card teams) play a single-elimination playoff with the winners meeting in the Super Bowl, one of the largest extravaganzas in sports.

The NFL average attendance of 67,591 is the largest in professional sports and they have a lucrative television contract with three major networks.

The networks pay to broadcast the games.

NFL organization

The NFL is a trade association which operates as a 501(C)(6) under the Internal Revenue Code. Since 2015, the NFL has given up this tax exempt status which means it no longer has to report the salary of its management.

The management consists of a commissioner (Roger Goodell, age 57) elected by at least 18 of the 32 owners, a secretary, and a treasurer. Each conference has a nominal, though impotent, president. There is a large staff under the commissioner.

The commissioner administers the league and conducts the NFL college draft. He is the league disciplinarian. As the disciplinarian, he settles all disputes amongst teams, coaches, players, and employees.

For his duties, he receives annual compensation of approximately $34,000,000 (2014, the last year for which info is available). This came in the form of a $3.5MM base salary, a $26.5MM bonus, $3.7MM in benefits including a contribution to a pension plan, plus other comp of $273,000.

It is a good job, pays well, and sets up high expectations for his employers (the owners).

NFL revenue

The NFL derives revenue from television rights, licensing agreements, sponsorships, and ticket sales — all of which flows directly to the teams.

The revenue is recognized at the team level, thus making  the non-profit status of the NFL administration meaningless. This revenue recognition model explains why the NFL gave up its 501(c)(6) tax exempt status.

The big revenue generator is the television rights.

If revenue goes down, why will it go down? Because the television stations cannot sell ads at the current rates because viewership declines while people are #NFLboycotting the NFL.

It is all interconnected.

Viewership goes down. Ad revenue goes down. The value of the television contract goes down. The funds available for the owners and players to split go down. Player contracts go down.

The Death Spiral is real.

NFL television contract

The NFL has a lucrative television contract (2013 numbers)

CBS paid $3,730,000,000

NBC paid $3,600,000,000

Fox paid $4,270,000,000

ESPN paid $8,800,000,000

This $20B + contract grows to almost $40B by 2022.

The contract is complicated with DirectTV ($1.5B for the Sunday Ticket) in the mix and special arrangements related to Monday and Thursday night broadcasts.

Each of CBS, NBC, Fox rotate the broadcast of the Super Bowl which is very lucrative.

The takeaway here is that the NFL’s television contract is the land of milk & honey.

This is where the pain will be felt.

The players

The players contract (the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, the CBA) is negotiated between the NFL Players Association and the NFL team owners. It provides for a fictitious even split with the owners of the gross revenue. The players get half; the owners get half.

If revenues go up, the players will demand a better contract come 2020 when the current 2011 agreement expires.

What happens if revenue goes down?

That is the question.

The branding issue, Big Red Car?

OK, back to the big issue, the brand damage.

The NFL and some of the players have now managed to get themselves into a pissing contest in which the American Flag, the Star Spangled Banner, military veterans, patriots, patriotism, President Donald Trump are on one side and the NFL and 13% of its players are on the other.

That is a lousy bet. Do not bet against Mother Goose or the American Flag.

Again, you have the NFL pitted against the flag, mom, apple pie, veterans, patriotism, Mother Goose, and Donald Trump.

Do not take from this information that the Big Red Car is espousing a side in this match. No, dear reader, the Big Red Car is just laying out the controversy. It is for you to decide is merits.

Impact, Big Red Car?

The impact thus far is this:

 1. The sides have been chosen and they don’t look good for the NFL. Do you agree?

 2. #NFLboycott is a real thing and it is building strength.

 3. Viewership is down 14%.

 4. Advertisers are coming up short on the number of eyeballs promised during NFL football games which means they have to “true up” the accounts by giving the same advertisers more free time to get the requisite number of eyeballs. This has already begun.

 5. It is only Week Three of the NFL season, but it is already looking troubling. [The Big Red Car thinks all of this can blow over if the NFL is smart about this and stops pouring gasoline on the fire.]

 6. Social media, usually a leading indicator, is ablaze with the subject. No coherent message, but lots of them.

So, dear reader, there you have it. As I indicated, I am not taking a side though I must admit, I am curtailing my NFL viewership until further notice.

Where do you think this goes?

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.

4 thoughts on “The NFL — Wrecking A Brand

  1. Yanks coming to London to stand in awe of the Union Jack but refusing to respect Old Glory?

    This Londoner isn’t confused, just feeling a bit smug at the moment!

    George Washington must be turning in his grave! Are we now even for 1776?

    On a (slightly) more serious note (and I’m using American spelling to be nice to you):

    Some American police appear to be oppressing some American people of color. This is wrong, and it’s right to protest against this, but there are better ways to do it.

    These players should not be disrespecting their nation, or their flag, or the people who risked (and lost) their lives to defend their flag, and defend their nation, and defend their freedoms which enable people in their nation to do disrespectful things without recourse. (We’ve had similar behavior with my old mate Jeremy Corbyn refusing to sing God Save The Queen. Does he even know the words?)

    It’s also not OK to incite and celebrate violence against police officers. Martin Luther King is a civil rights hero. Cop killers ain’t.

    (And the kneelers should’ve also kneeled to the British flag if they didn’t want to be hypocrites and actually bothered to research their cause, because sadly Britain doesn’t have the best history of police / colored people relations either e.g. look up Stephen Lawrence)

  2. The knee thing is a small effect of a big effect. For the big effect, there is a huge elephant, and the knee thing is one gnat on that elephant.

    But the elephant is not fully healthy, has now a lot of gnats on its back, some gnats bigger than others, and may fall.

    But, the elephant is big. It’s huge. And it’s really old.

    And now the elephant is a huge shame.

    The elephant is racism. Racism goes way back. Back there, people just accepted racism. And, often, and easily enough, a lot of people found ways to justify racism.

    The easiest justification was to compare (A) Western Civilization of, say, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, the Scandinavian countries, the Baltic countries, and England and Great Britain, and the US after it’s founding, with (B) primitive tribes in Africa, the upper Amazon, the American Indians, most of South Asia, etc. It was easy to conclude that the differences were striking, that Western Civilization was way ahead, and that the reason was the same as in breeding dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, goats, horses, etc., that is, from Darwin, that is, genetics, that is, race, that the races were fundamentally different at the genetic level with some races fundamentally and significantly inferior, at least in some important respects.

    Sure, that argument held as totally obvious for centuries, likely millennia, easy to justify by simple observation.

    Then it was easy to guess that a quite accurate surrogate for the differences was just skin color — lighter color means superior genes. So, the Scandinavians come out on top, whether Gentlemen Prefer Blonds (Marilyn Monroe was really something in any context!) or not. Then a guess at a cause was that somehow living in the tropics, where the darker skin colors were, was somehow less challenging to the genetics than living in the colder climates where, due to the need for effective, thoughtful innovation and planning, better genes were demanded.

    Turns out, looked at carefully, that argument is tough to justify.

    Why? Because, for one, even if this is the only one, there is not only genetic Darwinism but also social, societal Darwinism. E.g., raise Einstein in a tribe in the jungles of the upper Amazon and then, presto, bingo, no photoelectric effect, no special relativity, and no general relativity. About at best he would invent a slightly better way to gather monkeys from the treetops for dinners. So, the differences are more from the society than the genes.

    For skin color, that is commonly explained by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight: Humans need to absorb some UV to get vitamin D, and otherwise bones get weak and break. But if absorb too much UV, get skin cancer. So, in the tropics need more melanin in the skin, which makes the skin darker, to absorb more UV before it can cause skin cancer, and in the colder climates need less melanin in the skin, which makes the skin lighter, to absorb more UV so that can have enough vitamin D and avoid weak bones.

    Then there is another explanation: Somehow, accident or whatever, Western Civilization long stood on several crucial pillars, the exceptionally useful triticale strain of wheat and the domesticated animals sheep, goats, cattle, horses, cats, dogs, and falcons. Those advantages produced a food surplus and muscle power for development of writing, arithmetic, geometry, stone, copper, mining, bronze, physics, chemistry, biology, open ocean sailing, iron, steel, medicine, steam, electricity, electronics, and nuclear energy.

    Then, eventually, especially since WWII, a lot of people heard messages such as “But for the grace of god go thee” which meant that if any race or any person suffered terribly from discrimination then we all were vulnerable to such suffering. So, there were moral pangs and, then, efforts to reverse the differences from race.

    So, Martin Luther King, …, Colin Kaepernick protest racism.

    But a guess is that a lot, maybe, most of the differences between Western Civilization and the primitive, tropical tribes are social instead of genetic, and as we have heard “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”.

    Then there was Daniel Patrick “Pat” Moynihan, as at


    The Negro Family: The Case For National Action

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Ni<The Negro Family: The Case For National Action (known as the Moynihan Report, 1965) was written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an American sociologist serving as Assistant Secretary of Labor[1] under President Lyndon B. Johnson of the United States. In 1976, Moynihan was elected to the first of several terms as US senator from New York and continued to support liberal programs to try to end poverty. His report focused on the deep roots of black poverty in the United States and controversially concluded that the high rate of families headed by single mothers would greatly hinder progress of blacks toward economic and political equality.

    Moynihan argued that the rise in black single-mother families was caused not by a lack of jobs (that would soon be the case, however, from the loss of jobs due to industrial restructuring) but by a destructive vein in ghetto culture, which could be traced to slavery times and continued discrimination in the American South under Jim Crow. Black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier had introduced that idea in the 1930s, but Moynihan was considered one of the first academics to defy conventional social-science wisdom about the structure of poverty. As he wrote later, “The work began in the most orthodox setting, the U.S. Department of Labor, to establish at some level of statistical conciseness what ‘everyone knew’: that economic conditions determine social conditions. Whereupon, it turned out that what everyone knew was evidently not so.”[2]

    My brother got his Ph.D. in political science, was highly moral, and decided to sacrifice much of his career and got a teaching slot in a predominately Black college. In one course he discussed Moynihan’s ideas and, from what he told me, right away got a lot of agreement from his students.

    So, Moynihan was in effect setting aside genetic Darwinism and considering social Darwinism.

    So, according to Moynihan, as a first step we would hope that Colin Kaepernick would be a really, really, really good father in a really, really, really good marriage, home, and family. He’s got money enough. Likely he has a college education.

    Dad, English name, grew up a little south of Buffalo; his natural father ran the town general store, and his stepfather ran the town feed and grain mill. Mom, German name, grew up in Columbus, OH and went to an integrated high school. At 14, her family was short of money, so she dropped out of high school, put cardboard in her shoes to cover over the holes, walked all the way up High Street stopping at every retail store asking for a job, the next day repeated that, and eventually got a promise from a manager at the department store Lazarus that she could have a job if she had some experience. So, she got a job on the after dinner shift in the basement of a low end dress shop on the other side of the red light district. So, she had to walk home after 9 PM. She had an uncle with a car who sometimes gave her a ride. He also chipped in for an oil painting of her when she was 15. That painting hung in our dining room as I grew up. She was drop dead gorgeous, much like Elizabeth Taylor. In her 40’s she did some clothes modeling at a department store — during lunch time for ladies who lunch. Soon she returned to the manager at Lazarus and got a job. Soon they offered to send her to buyer’s school in NYC, but she was still only 16, and her grandmother (head of the family) said “No.” She returned to high school at night school, got good, really good, at typing, spelling, letter writing, bookkeeping, filing, etc. and got a better job in a company that coated fabrics. Then she met Dad.

    Dad’s job took us to Memphis, and I grew up there. Soon it was totally obvious that a lot of the Blacks in Memphis had a lot of reason to believe that they were still being treated as slaves.

    E.g., at Memphis State Teachers College (later Memphis State University with, IIRC, a good basketball team or some such) had an entrance exam. Well, a young Black woman took the exam and failed. It turned out that she was from a financially well off Memphis family and had already graduated from Wellesley College or some such. So, presto, bingo, the Memphis newspaper were awash in the story: The entrance exam at Memphis State was based on skin color, not academic promise. That situation then quickly changed, and Memphis State became integrated.

    But overall the race situation in Memphis remained. I didn’t like that situation and got out of Memphis ASAP. In the meanwhile Dad’s job took him to the Pentagon, and soon I started my career in applied math and computing around DC. Good career start.

    But, last I heard, in Memphis a lot of the Blacks still have plenty of good reason to believe that are still being treated as slaves. That’s still easy to do: Just look at skin color. And that’s what is done. Did I mention, it’s easy to do?

    So, presto, bingo, soon enough, it’s easy enough to see that the US can continue to have essentially a slave labor, laboring underclass based on skin color. So, there are some very strong forces in the US to import such people, even illegally. Indeed, if they are illegal, then it’s much easier to keep them as slaves.

    Obama liked that. Now Schumer and Pelosi like that. The US Chamber of Congress and the Business Round Table like that. Even Zuck likes that.

    Net, the slave drivers are still with us. Slavery has not gone away. Lots of people, some with big bucks, right, from slave driving, give big bucks to Schumer & Co. for more in slavery. The slavery is based on skin color. So, in the US, racism is alive and well.

    If find yourself in a hole, then the first step is to stop digging. Well if the US wants to stop racism, then the first step is to quit importing people as slaves and kept as slaves based on skin color and racism. Maybe someone should tell Senator Schumer, Zuck, etc. that?

    Colin Kaepernick? He has a point:

    But with high irony, NFL and NBA games are not a very appropriate or effective place to make that point! With the high player earnings and propensity of Blacks on the teams, the NFL and NBA are about the last place to make that point!

    Also, Kaepernick was trying to focus on the police. To me, that situation is mixed: On the one hand, in some of the Black ghettos, some of the police are being asked for a lot. On the other hand, sometimes the police go wrong. One I think of is what happened to the Black guy on the street — NY?, Baltimore? — selling cigarettes one by one. The police put him on the ground with a knee on his neck so that he couldn’t breathe, and they kept their knee there as with his last breath he complained of not being able to breathe, and the police killed him that way. IIRC, the police got off. There was also the case of what is sometime called a police “nickel ride” where in Baltimore the police put an angry Black teen in a paddy wagon, drove him to the police station, and discovered, wonder of wonders, that he was then dead. Standard stuff: Throw the person in the back, with hands and feet bound, and then drive the wagon violently so that the passenger is thrown hard, helplessly against the walls. Can break a neck doing that; the Baltimore police did exactly that. Sure, maybe mostly the police just teach such a teen a lesson, get more discipline on the streets, administer street justice, etc., but all of that is wildly illegal, and occasionally a nickel ride kills someone. Again the police got off.

    But the problem of the police is just one gnat on the back of the elephant of deliberate US slavery via racism. It’s an old elephant. It’s tough to bring down that elephant with just some gnats. Martin Luther King tried; Moynihan tried; now Kaepernick has tried. The elephant is still there. Obviously a better way to stop the slavery, racism, police being illegal and dangerous, is to stop digging this hole, that is, stop importing more slaves using skin color to keep them as slaves.

    To be more effective, Kaepernick along with a lot of the NFL and NBA should give Senator Schumer a visit, bring their checkbooks, don’t pass up the opportunity to be physically imposing (but not actually intimidating) and explain how the Senator should quit supporting the slave drivers. They should offer some checks to underline their position, with solid promises from Schumer that he will STOP the slavery and racism.

    Then they should ALL visit Trump in the Oval Office, the Roosevelt Room, and the Rose Garden and agree that we should stop illegal immigration and, as was long traditional, admit only people who can contribute to the US (hopefully build good FAMILIES), love the US, and assimilate into the US, just as Trump campaigned on and so many million US citizens, of all races, voted for, just last November. In this, the NFL and NBA players should LOVE the US, the US flag, the US National Anthem, and oppose the Schumer & Co. support of slavery and back Trump instead.

    Kaepernick should be working WITH Trump. Trump is the last person Kaepernick should be fighting with.

    For their demonstrations, sure, the NFL and NBA players could easily enough find ways more appropriate to demonstrate than the game broadcasts, e.g., visit the White House CONSTRUCTIVELY, and not try to have the sports audiences put up with insults to the US.

    Net, we have slavery and racism because of the reason we’ve had it for hundreds, likely thousands, of years — there’s big money behind it. So, as usual, “Follow the money.”.

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