Monday, July 26, 2010

I must admit to generally being totally in the tank for the NFL. I love it. I love watching games with my kids, I love following team moves in and out of the season, and I love doing research statistical research on strategic and player evaluation in the NFL. As a professor of sport management, I also have a great deal of respect for what the NFL has accomplished on the business side. They are the most powerful force in professional sports in the US. They had an hour long special announcing the order in which teams would play their previously announced opponents! And people actually watched!

This makes the strange case of even stranger.

The NFL is in the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the players, which is a highly complex process. There are numerous long range economic variables, international aspects, intellectual property issues... (I could go on here, but listing all the areas that the agreement touches is pretty boring stuff). One the aspects of this bargaining process is public perception. Fans invariably will either take the sides of the very wealthy players or ridiculously wealthy owners, and the side that wins more of the fans, will have some advantage at the bargaining table.

The NFL has one of the best PR and marketing teams in the business world (again they actually got people to watch them announce when teams would play previously announced opponents), yet they seem to have put together a totally transparent ploy to win "hearts and minds" in this battle for the favor of the fans. The site, which is owned and operated by the NFL, is a series of blog posts which seem to be designed to curry the favor of fans by posting on events in the NFL through highly rose colored glasses (assuming those rose colored glasses were personally fitted by Roger Goodell).

The writers of the blog, which are all apparently called "Staff", have highlighted such high value NFL developments such as the Eagles printing fans faces on tickets, NFL employees discussing how much they love fans, and that 15 NFL players are in the top 50 in earnings for professional athletes.

What is particularly interesting about this site is the address: because this site has very little to do with discussing important NFL labor issues and lot more to do with congratulating the NFL for being great. Why do this? Are fans going to be confused by this site and believe it is somehow related to the NFL Players Association (which does its fair share of propaganda for its point of view)? Are fans going to confuse this site with the excellent work done on

The entire exercise just seems amateurish for an organization as successful as the NFL. It is obvious, and blatant and they clearly or not proud of this as there is not link to on the site! The NFL has every right to try and curry favor with fans at the expense of the players, they are in a very difficult negotiation, but they should do it with the same expertise that they promote a multi-day event in which no football gets played yet fans tune in to watch their teams decide whether they should draft the 150th best player on their draft board, or try and fill a need with the 200th best player on their draft board (as an aside, I get board after the 3rd round of my own fantasy draft, I certainly can't stomach watching a draft where I don't even get to make a decision).

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