There are times it seems like the NFL and NBA do not live in the same universe. Despite all the negative press, the NFL now generates $14-billion per year in revenue. The NBA, which is viewed more favorably, will finally cross $8-billion mark this season. Still, NBA players generate by far the most endorsement money of all US athletes. Imagine how much money the NFL could make if it took a page out of the NBA’s playbook. The NBA embraces all the things the NFL tries to suppress: freedom of speech, individuality, and hip-hop culture.
With the exception of Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, NBA players and coaches have been more outspoken about social issues than NFL players. Yet, there has been no backlash against the league from fans. Hip-hop is no longer just a style or music. It is a lifestyle and culture that has no single race or ethnicity. Hip-hop is now the most popular genre of music in the world. Musicians like Drake, Cardi B, and Travis Scott with endorsement deals bigger than athletes. Their music is played at high-end hotels, events, and restaurants. Just look at the difference in musical acts from the NBA All-Star game and Super Bowl.
J Cole Absolutely knocked NBA All Star Game Halftime out of the box. While Maroon 5, who is a popular act, provided an opportunity for people to go to the restroom or check their Twitter feeds.
NBA revenue and ratings are on the rise. Many will point to the fact that NFL single-game ratings dwarf NBA ratings. However, the NBA has 2,460 games (82 games x 30 teams) while an NFL team only has 512 (16 games x 32 teams) so the numbers are much closer than they seem. Between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 season, NBA ratings increased amongst younger viewers while the NFL saw a decline over that same period. The average age of NFL fans is now over 50, while the NBA is 42. The money and greatest buying power are shifting to the next generation. More consumers are streaming their content (which does not factor into ratings) than ever before. The 50+ demographic doesn’t stream a fraction of the content the under 40 demographic does. The NFL ownership realizes this is a major concern and have already starting inquiring if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would consider moving to the NFL.
If the NFL wants to continue its reign and put a bigger divide in the closing gap over the NBA, it needs to embrace the culture. Create a cooperative culture with the players about their individual brands and welcome them speaking up and about whatever they please. That causes the single player to be accountable for what they say/do instead of the team.
Step Into the Light
The NFL has to come to grips with the fact that times are changing. Hip-hop culture, social activism, and individualism as here to stay. Those things can co-exist with the “No Fun League” while making the league more profitable and sustainable long term. The more the league fights against its players and the culture, the more
Hopefully the NFL will step into the light and embrace the future.