The NFL attracts millions of viewers every Sunday, Monday and Thursday to their television sets to watch and experience professional football. For many years, the fans of the NFL have been primarily males. Only recently have female fans begun to make up a significant portion of NFL viewers, with 46 percent in 2013. The NFL may quickly lose much of its female (and male) support due to its mishandling of the punishment of Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice.
In February, video surfaced of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancé, Janay Palmer out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. It was evident that Rice had somehow harmed Janay who is now his wife, but until the video from inside the elevator was released on Monday, September 8th, the true extent of his actions were not known. The footage from inside the elevator shows Rice punching his wife, Janay, in the face, knocking her out and then proceeding to attempt to drag her out of the casino. This July, after deliberating on what was seen in the first video, NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, suspended Rice for only two games and slapped him with a fine of $58,000. This punishment was criticized as far too lenient, so the second video garnered Rice an indefinite ban from the NFL.
The NFL is not merely just a professional sports league, but also one of the largest brands in the United States and most lucrative sports league, grossing over $9 billion in 2013. However it is not known for upstanding behavior from its players. Women, who have not taken the Rice scandal lightly, now make up 46 percent of the NFL’s stakeholders. The NFL realized this immediately and knew that if they did not listen to the outcries of their fans, their brand reputation could be severely damaged. The initial two game suspension for Rice sparked outrage, therefore, Tuesday, September 9th, the NFL instated a new policy that will suspend any player found guilty of domestic violence for six games at minimum.
The NFL cannot afford to bungle another case like this again if the organization wants to remain in a positive light with its fans. Goodell currently has two additional domestic violence cases involving players on his desk that he must handle, and must successfully close this incident with Rice before fans of the NFL can once again respect the league’s integrity. The league would be taking a huge step in the wrong direction if it allows Rice back into the league, which Goodell stated, “he does not rule out completely.” If Rice returns to the NFL, what sort of precedent does that set for further offenses in the league and what does that mean for the NFL as a brand?
(2014, September 8). After Ray Rice, the NFL needs to Go Big to Restore Brand with Women. Retrieved from: http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/after-ray-rice-nfl-needs-go-big-restore-brand-women-160009
Almasy, Steve. (2014, September 10). NFL Commissioner doesn’t Rule Out a Return for Rice. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/10/us/nfl-ray-rice/index.html