When will we stand up to NFL?

When will we stand up to NFL?

September 12, 2018 3:09 AM


This column is not really about Colin Kaepernick or even about Nike and its controversial new advertising campaign utilizing the unemployed NFL quarterback in a new series of promotions. What you think about kneeling during the National Anthem is your business. Kaepernick’s initial protest has been splintered into lots of issues, some on point and some way off target.

Nike aired its first “Just Do It” ad, narrated by Kaepernick, during Thursday night’s NFL season opener between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Nike campaign, however, calls attention to some of these numerous side issues. One of the most important to me is standing up to the NFL. Like many other sports fans, I’m more than a little sick and tired of the various leagues steamrolling the general public by telling fans how to feel about their product.

I sometimes sense the NFL is beating me over the head with its policies and pronouncements rather than trying to convince me it’s right on any of these controversial topics that sometimes even include the rules of the game itself and how they are interpreted.

The league has long had dictums banning most forms of gambling advertising and is now finally relaxing them. It’s monetary involvement with daily fantasy sports (DFS) the last several years while continuing its punitive conduct toward those who enjoy Nevada-style sports betting has demonstrated the ultimate in duplicitous behavior.

DFS is gambling. The argument by the DFS companies and even the NFL that it is not has now largely been abandoned as legal, single-team sports wagering is gradually being rolled out nationally. I hope I’m not alone in believing when the various leagues adopt policies and issue public statements in contrast to generally accepted beliefs, dealing with such things as illegal drug use, concussions and sports wagering it is overreaching.

The NFL’s desire to constantly and completely control the public narrative is self-defeating. It rubs many of us the wrong way because, in a not very subtle way, the league wants to control what fans think about its product. The autocratic actions are as unpatriotic as anything any player has said or done.

The NFL has long fought Las Vegas and would never even pay lip service to the fact that betting on its games has been a major factor in league growth and franchise value. Forcing Nevada casino/resorts to advertise its Super Bowl festivities as “Big Game” parties in recent years is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the league’s contentious relationship with local casino operators. I can see licensing the Super Bowl for most products and services, but the Super Bowl parties were promotional events for the NFL and should never been targeted in the first place.

Couldn’t Nevada and Atlantic City have stood up to the league in the manner that Nike has?

I realize the gaming industry does most of its talking through the American Gaming Association (AGA), which actively supported the legal action that finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court resulting in the May decision allowing each state to consider whether it wanted sports betting or not.

However, Atlantic City casino/resort owners were conspicuously quiet as the horsemen at Monmouth Park did all the heavy lifting, including paying hefty legal bills, in their successful effort to legalize sports betting in the Garden State.

Now, a veritable rush of activity has ensued in which those Atlantic City casinos have opened sports betting to quickly take financial advantage of the new sports betting profit opportunity. When Monmouth Park and its horsemen, under the most able leadership of Dennis Drazin, kept battling to win the right to take bets on sports in addition to those on horses, the silence out of Atlantic City and Nevada, as well, was deafening, as they say.

Further upsetting is how the NFL – after fighting sports betting for decades – has quickly decided to relax its rules regarding franchises accepting casino sponsorship. Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones has already announced a deal with an Oklahoma Tribal casino. After all the years of NFL opposition it hasn’t taken long for owners to begin monetizing what has been a stinging defeat for them on this issue.

The league’s annual revenue could rise by $2.3 billion as legalized sports wagering spreads across the country, according to a newly released study conducted by Nielsen for the American Gaming Association.

Yet, the NFL fought this revenue source for decades.

Now, in the words of AGA Senior Vice President Sara Slane, “The NFL could be the biggest winner of all.”

You can decide for yourself how you feel about Nike. Right now, I chose to applaud them for standing up to the neighborhood bully.

Full disclosure: I wear Reeboks.