The National Football League (NFL) and its commissioner Roger Goodell have become poster children for how not to handle a crisis. With Ravens running back Ray Rice suspended indefinitely for striking his now-wife in a casino elevator and knocking her unconscious, the NFL was slow to commit to revamping its personal conduct policy. To make matters worse, there doesn't appear to be a great deal of urgency to get that work done as Goodell targeted the 2015 Super Bowl - a good four months from now - as a timeframe for announcing a new policy. But Rice wasn't the only NFL player making headlines last month for all the wrong reasons. Three other players, including Jonathan Dwyer, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy, were also in the news for charges of domestic violence or child abuse.
In light of this violent behavior off the field, I am making a plea to NFL Commissioner Goodell and the franchise owners.
First, for the benefit of NFL fans and non-fans alike, let's step back for a moment and take a brief look at this American sports phenomenon.
Did you know the NFL is a registered not-for-profit organization? While all but one team is a privately owned franchise (Green Bay Packers is community-owned), the NFL is a 501(c)(6) under the Internal Revenue Service tax code. While it is just the administrative arm of the League that is tax-exempt, it does shine a different light on expenses and the nearly $30 million in compensation that Goodell receives annually.
Having said that, the administrative arm of the NFL does a very good job running the business of professional football. The NFL is more profitable than professional baseball, basketball and hockey in the United States. Its central model for generating and sharing revenue allows it to tightly control its brand and product distribution. Plus, by sharing its revenue equally among its 32 franchises - making up about 70 percent of each team's revenue - the NFL also tightly controls the economics of the game. Money talks.
And there is a lot of money in the NFL. The League generates about $10 billion in taxable income annually with about half of that from broadcast rights. Deals with its three broadcast partners are in place through the end of the 2022 NFL season. That's a lot of brand management power through the control of distribution. The 2014 Super Bowl alone had a television audience of more than 112 million viewers, making it the most watched and the most lucrative annual sporting event in the world.
The other approximately $5 billion in revenue comes largely from license fees and sponsorships. And, there are plenty of them too. Product and service companies clamor to pay large sums of money to be designated the official something of the NFL.
So here's my plea to the NFL leadership. Why not take the incredible brand you have built, the media might that you command, and the economic muscle that you generate and commit the NFL to being a force for positive social change? Why not take a portion of the funds generated from the official beer, candy, credit card, pizza, yogurt, vehicle - the list goes on - of the NFL, and become the official voice against domestic violence?
Your loyal fan base, in particular the 45 percent that are female, will applaud you.