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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay


Just turn your TV on and you can see all the news stations commenting and addressing that the NFL is now one of the most conflict-ridden brands in the U.S. It is rapidly losing viewers and even life-long football fans in the face of advances in the ongoing player protests that focus on social issues like police brutality and racial injustice. The NFL players’ union and 11 owners recently met to discuss these issues; however, the most contentious topic, the NFL’s policy on the national anthem, did not come up. The failure to fully understand the identities, which shape perceptions and dictate behavior on each side, is the single most important factor to finding a solution.  First, we must ask ourselves, really what does football mean to America:

Football is an American metaphor for our ideal world and a nationalistic Identity–different backgrounds, talents, and histories made us one big team with one big goal - to do well, to win, TOGETHER.

Any attempt by players to challenge the nationalistic identity by refusing to participate in the anthem is considered divisive, childish, and disrespectful. Bottom line: Devoted fans and casual viewers, especially those with military backgrounds, have put their U.S. patriotic identities before and above all else. What’s the lesson here – fans are Americans first and fans second.

The football field is now divided by identity, plagued by unaddressed social tensions exacerbated by social media. The NFL’s lack of expertise to effectively deal with a conflict is much deeper than a typical public relations (PR) debacle. Let’s face it at the end of the day, the NFL is a business. And like any business, it must strike a balance between supporting its workforce, players and coaching staffs, and appeasing its customers (fan) base, different as their worldviews may be.

The result of the current situation regarding the national anthem is impossible to predict, one thing is for sure: The NFL must do something to address the thousands of fans threatening to boycott the brand – and they better do it fast. If the NFL wants to improve public perception, increase its current ratings, and mend the division between players, coaches, and fans alike, it must tackle the complex issues concerning national identity.

The NFL doesn’t have to choose between black lives and their bottom line, they just need to fully take into account the various identities and ever-changing sentiment of stakeholders on the field, on the sidelines, and in the stands. So, please NFL, contact us, we at ICESERVE24 and EVENTPRO Media help organizations manage online discussions and perceptions, shape public sentiment, and avoid events that lead to negative public opinion, litigation, protests, strikes, or violence. Engage us and Learn the insights. 

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