The National Football League, better known as the NFL, earned the nickname the “No Fun League” during the 1980s and 1990s when it started cracking down on players’ on-field celebrations.
Since then, the nickname has grown to encompass more than just on-field activities. The NFL has continued to do whatever it could to further its brand. And make no mistake, it’s a lucrative brand. Forbes.com reported in 2013 that its revenues were more than $9 billion, with Commissioner Roger Goodell wanting to reach $25 billion in annual revenues by 2027.
There’s a phrase for what the NFL does to further itself: protect the shield, a reference to the league’s logo.
While that seems to have little to do with life in Carlisle, which hasn’t had any direct NFL ties since the Washington Redskins stopped holding its training camp here in the early 2000s, the Carlisle Cruisers Youth Athletics program would beg to differ.
As Naomi Creason reported in Friday’s edition of The Sentinel, the Carlisle Theatre and the Carlisle Cruisers Youth Athletics were told they couldn’t host a Super Bowl viewing party at the theater on Sunday.
They learned this after about a month of planning. The event was to include food, raffles and children’s activities as well as the New England Patriots-Seattle Seahawks matchup on the theater’s screen.
But the NFL threw the flag (sorry, we couldn’t resist one football pun). The viewing party is off, although there will be an event held prior to the game that will include many of the same events. It’s amazing to us that an entity as big as the NFL, during the week of its biggest event, would even notice such a fundraiser is scheduled.
The NFL has strict requirements about who can use the Super Bowl name and also has a requirement about who can host larger viewing parties.
That shouldn’t be a surprise. The NFL has strict requirements about everything.
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch doesn’t like to talk to the media. But since he’s a star player in the Super Bowl, he risks being fined if he doesn’t talk. That led to his repeated humorous responses to the media Tuesday: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” On Wednesday, it was “You know why I’m here.” He also — horror of horrors! — wore a non-NFL-approved hat brand to the press conference. That likely will lead to another fine.
Earlier this season, the NFL fined 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick $10,000 for wearing Beats by Dre headphones to a postgame press conference. The problem? The NFL has a deal with its competitor, Bose. Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was fined $100,000 by the NFL for wearing a cap during Super Bowl XLI media day in 2007 that promoted Vitamin Water. The league has a deal with Gatorade. The examples go on and on.
Protect the shield. Don’t make the sponsors angry. Force the players to conform. Make billions of dollars. With the anti-trust exemption it has, these are achievable goals.
The NFL is a great product. The Super Bowl is akin to a national holiday. More than 110 million people will watch the game — and the commercials.
But the NFL has an image problem ... player safety, the lingering stench of the Ray Rice scandal, the handling of Deflategate. It’s a shame that the cancellation of a fundraiser for a youth sports league gets rolled up into those problems.