Economics is always concerned about the allocation of scarce resources to meet consumer needs. The National Football League has carefully allocated its resources of money, elite athletes, and a monopoly on professional football to create the most profitable sports franchise in history. While paying customers have always generated a need for contests of sport, the NFL has increased that need, or want, to a level where it is a part of American culture, and for many, a way of life.
Life comes to a standstill every Sunday during the season. Fans put on their own NFL jerseys, head to their favorite sports bar, and enjoy fellowship with fellow fans as they cheer their team to victory. Not only is the NFL creating wealth for the league owners, it creates wealth for manufacturers of apparel and sports equipment, for restaurants and bars who see a spike in patrons on Game Day, for cities who see income rise in everything from parking revenue at stadiums and increased taxes on additional goods bought, and for television and radio stations who increase advertising fees during game broadcasts. The demand that drives this wealth creation is in serious trouble right now and the NFL, and its commissioner, Roger Goodall, know it.
The article I have reviewed – “The Image conscious NFL has an Image Problem” – discusses this threat to its sustainability. Football has always been a violent game, drawing violent people to play it. Often that violence carries over to the real lives of its players and their families. As players now earn multi-million dollar contracts, they live lives where they see themselves as above the law. In the past, the NFL and team owners have always been able to keep that dark side of the sport hidden from public view. Social Media has changed that.
NFL star running back Ray Rice was seen a few months ago dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator door and down the hall by her arm. The video went viral over the Internet, and both fans and non-fans were outraged. It was one thing to read about something like this, another to see it recorded. The league realized this could hurt its image which could threaten demand for its product. After trying to blow it off, the NFL suspended Rice for two games, figuring it would calm critics and protect a rising star that helps drive demand for the game. Woman’s rights activists were not happy. When a second video surfaced and went viral on the Internet showing Rice knocking out his girlfriend with a punch to the face, the NFL knew the threat to its livelihood was real.
At the same time, another major star, Adrian Peterson, was arrested for child abuse of his 4 year old son. Every player now arrested or involved in any type of domestic or child abuse was making front page news. The media spotlight was on the bad off the field behavior of its players.
For years, the NFL has been trying to expand its economic base of fans by increasing demand from women, making the NFL a family affair. Now, women across the country were outraged and threatening to turn off the TV on Sunday and to quit buying the lucrative sports apparel. They didn’t want to be associated with an organization that looked the other way regarding any type of abuse of women and children.
As the article shows, the NFL is in full damage control, trying desperately to protect its image, its brand name and its revenue streams. They have indefinitely suspended both Rice and Peterson and have announced plans to change its whole approach to disciplining bad behavior off the field. The wealth generation economic machine known as the NFL must be protected.
"The Image Conscious NFL Has an Image Problem." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Web. 23 Sept. 2014. <http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-image-conscious-nfl-has-an-image-problem-1411137396>.