U.S. Military rethinking their relationship with NFL amidst scandals

NEW YORK, New York (Dec. 30)--A Coast Guard Color Guard from Activites New York posts the colors for the Jets versus Bills NFL game at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ Dec. 30. USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto

By Brett Gillin

With the terrible public relations surrounding the National Football League, almost everyone involved in the league in some form or fashion is examining that relationship. Count the United States Military among those looking to see what their relationship currently looks like, and what that relationship will look like in the future. Despite the fact that the U.S. Military and NFL football seem to be almost joined at the hip both during games and in game advertising, that relationship may change in the near future.

Anyone who hasn’t been completely disconnected from the news cycle of the last couple weeks should be aware of the spate of controversies surrounding the NFL and its players. The firestorm started with NFL running back Ray Rice being involved in a case of domestic violence with his then fiancée. When video surfaced of him punching her in the face, the NFL suspended him for two games. Then, the public outcry grew to a near-deafening level.

The NFL has changed their policies on domestic violence several times, and Commissioner Roger Goodell has admitted to making mistakes in initially handling the suspension. But shortly after the Ray Rice story broke, several other players, including superstar running back Adrian Peterson, ran into trouble with the law, and the response from the NFL has still been inconsistent.

This has many sponsors and partners of the NFL looking into their relationships with the sports giant. Perhaps the most interesting partner looking into their relationship is the United States Military. According to this article on CBS Sports, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is asking that the government carefully consider their relationship with the NFL.

“The secretary wants to fully understand that relationship, in case he decides to make some changes to it,” a senior defense official told CNN in this article.

The relationship between the military and NFL is probably more complicated than many people realize. On the surface, the Army alone spends around $10 million a year in advertising during NFL broadcasts. These broadcasts, which go out on the Armed Forces Network, reach troops all over the world.

But the United State Military has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to domestic abuse, and with the NFL’s recent domestic abuse issues, a reexamination of the relationship seems to be called for. An easy answer would be to pull sponsorship and stop advertising, but that could actually hurt the military, as their target audience certainly intersects with the NFL’s audience.

Plus, pulling sponsorships would only lessen the military’s NFL involvement in one small way. The military also provides things like drill teams, flyovers, colors ceremonies, presentations of the flag, and often times military members will sing the national anthem. This doesn’t even bring into consideration how often NFL teams fly in veterans and wounded warriors to their games in order to honor them.

According to CNN, the military also has an agreement to share information and research when it comes to traumatic brain injuries which has been growing over the last 15 years. In addition, the popular program NFL Play 60, which encourages children to spend at least 60 minutes a day engaged in some sort of physical activity, often asks players to visit military bases to promote the program.

“Many of these professional athletes are marketed as role models to young people,” a senior administration official with the White House told reporters. “So their behavior does have the potential to influence these young people. So that’s one of the many reasons it’s important the league gets a handle on this and have zero tolerance.”



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