Kneeling Banned. Will NFL Sponsorships Stay?
NFL sponsorships weren’t mentioned in the statement From NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that announced fines for teams with personnel involved in national anthem protests, but they were front-of-mind for marketers, as well as consumers commenting on why Goodell made the play.
On Wednesday, Goodell’s statement went up on NFLCommunications.com and went viral. Those critical of the commissioner’s comments said the move was the result of marketers eyeing leaving NFL sponsorships, as had Papa John’s after the Big Game, saying players taking a knee in protest of what Goodell characterizes as social injustices cost the NFL and its sponsors money. The critics are now saying to go after the sponsors, because they’re the reason the NFL is now violating free speech rights.
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownGuitar) May 23, 2018
Those in favor of Goodell’s statement also tweeted about sponsorships:
Damn the NFL trying to please the people that buy tickets and buy their sponsors products. How dare they.
— JW (@wildcatfan52) May 24, 2018
As for the sponsors themselves, they’re not saying much. But this headline about Nike says plenty — despite a Business Insider article in November 2017 quoting the retailer as supporting players’ protest rights: “The NFL and Nike Have Signed a Giant 10-year Deal With Online Retailer Fanatics.”
That Recode article, published on Wednesday, contains this tweet:
And, yes -- as some noted -- this seems to indicate that Amazon is locked out of selling official Nike NFL gear for a very long time. (Unless they someday buy Fanatics or Fanatics sets up an Amazon storefront.)
That said, resellers will leak some stuff onto Amazon marketplace https://t.co/IuGoIUArDp
— Jason Del Rey (@DelRey) May 23, 2018
The Business Insider article listed other NFL sponsors watching the protests, with Papa John’s leaving months later. Other than Under Armour (see the Nike deal above), all of the sponsors it listed then are listed now as sponsors on NFLPA.com: Anheuser-Busch, Dannon, FedEx, Bose, Ford, Hyundai and Barclaycard U.S.
Those sponsors and the others may be watching this latest controversy, if David Haugh’s opinion piece on Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune is any indication:
“If the militaristic NFL insists on keeping the anthem before games to avoid sponsorship backlash, fine, but keep both teams in their respective locker rooms until kickoff to avoid politicizing sports any more than this national conversation has. Ownership advocates point out the revised policy no longer requires players to be on the field for the anthem, but that disregards the premium coaches in a football culture place on uniformity and an all-for-one and one-for-all mentality.
“Overall, this measure lacks common sense.
“In essence, the league poured gasoline on the flames of controversy that time finally had begun to extinguish. The handful of player protests had dwindled; media interest in the issue had waned. Now, NFL owners have given us something else to discuss away from the sport itself, reviving a conversation that turns many casual fans away.”
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
Related story: NFL Players Taking a Knee Cost Sponsor Papa John's Millions?