SBD/November 18, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL's Core Business Is Booming, But Subtle Issues That Could Have Big Impact Remain



There is evidence fewer children are playing youth football
The NFL's recent issues are not about "going through tough times on television or on the ledger sheets, where the $9 billion industry continues to print money as fast as it manufactures throwback jerseys," but instead about "more subtle things -- like image-making, kids’ participation, no-shows in the stands and, yes, the unforeseeable future of a very American game in a global athletic stadium," according to Filip Bondy of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. When the games are "done and the NFL cedes control of content, the reports flashing across the screen recently are far from family-friendly." What happens if fans "stop paying to attend games and if America’s kids stop playing this very American sport?" What happens if tackle football "becomes boxing, and only the poorest, most desperate minorities risk their bodies and minds to participate?" There is "evidence of such erosion at the very foundation of the league." Ten NFL teams are "playing to stadiums that are less than 95% filled, double the number from seven years ago." Torrenzano Group Chair & CEO Richard Torrenzano, whose firm specializes in building and protecting corporate reputations, said of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, "If you look at Goodell’s statements (on concussions) back in 2009 before Congress, he talked about changing the culture. This is 2014, so you have to ask yourself the question ‘what happened in five years?’ The concussion issues would scare any parent." Torrenzano added the Dolphins' recent scandal involving alleged bullying by suspended G Richie Incognito "would be on top of the minds of many parents because of digital bullying." Torrenzano: "If they don’t clean this mess up quickly, it’ll have a significant impact on sponsors and others around the sport, more congressional hearings." Bondy wrote, "Even the NFL isn’t indestructible, once the protection starts breaking down" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/17).

DROP IN YOUTH PARTICIPATION: CBSSN’s Allie LaForce noted of the recent numbers in participation in Pop Warner football saying, “Reports emerged this week that participation in Pop Warner football has declined nearly 10% in the last three years.” CBSSN’s Adam Schein said, “This is a big drop and I think it’s eventually going to affect the quality of player in the NFL.” CBSSN’s Amy Trask added, “I’d be interested in knowing what the drop in enrollment in other sports is as well. Are there economic issues?” CBSSN’s Brandon Tierney noted of the participation decline in football, “There are certain states, Texas, Ohio, California, Florida where it’s going to be around until the end. But you get to private schools where these kids don’t have a shot to get into Ohio State, that’s where they're going to slowly do away with it.” CBSSN’s Bart Scott noted that the CTE issue is “huge” in parents deciding whether or not to let children play football and that football “is just not worth it to some parents” (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 11/17).

PARENTAL CONTROL: Former NFLer Brett Favre was on NBC’s “Today” this morning to discuss the dangers of football and Favre said of his children playing football, “If I had a son, I would be real leery of him playing." Favre: "In some respects, I’m almost glad I don’t have a son because of the pressures he would face but also the physical toll that it would possibly take on him.” When asked if he would be a spokesperson for football safety, Favre said, “I don’t want to knock football at all, I think that’s unfair. I knew what I was getting into. To think that I could help maybe ease some of the potential trauma but still keep the integrity of the game, I’m willing to do that” (“Today,” NBC, 11/18). In Boston, Bob Ryan wrote, "The mothers of America could shut down football today. ... The mothers of America could band together and say, 'Uh-uh, no way. My boy’s not playing football. And that’s all there is to it'" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/17).
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