Consumer boycott: go to sponsors of the N.F.L.

Yesterday’s NYT sports section had a terrific, complex piece, “N.F.L. Sponsors Need to Act,” by Juliet Macur.

Macur starts out:

You know those funny Campbell Soup ads starring N.F.L. players and their mothers? The ones where moms pop up in locker rooms and on fields to bring their sons bowls of steaming Chunky soup?

Those moms have more problems than just keeping their sons fed, now that a 144-page report of an independent investigation has made public the details of the bullying on the Miami Dolphins. It’s nothing that can be fixed by a bowl of soup.

Campbell Soup Company is one of the N.F.L.’s many corporate sponsors that are bankrolling a league that we now know includes workplace behavior so vile that much of it cannot even be repeated in detail here.

Macur is talking about the Jonathan Martin case — which has appalled me — and then writes:

The best way to effect real change would be for the league’s corporate sponsors to take a stand. Companies like Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch and Visa hold the only lever that really matters — the purse strings[My emphasis]

The N.F.L. is a $10 billion behemoth, the largest show in American sports. [Which, according to a number of recent reports, doesn’t pay taxes, although the subhead in this Gregg Easterbrook article states that Roger Goodell made $30 mil a year; according to news a few days ago, he made $44 mil last year] It’s fueled by corporate dollars, and without those steady infusions, the engine would stop running. If the big companies stopped advertising, television channels would get spooked and the N.F.L. would be forced to make systemic changes.

Here are the N.F.L. corporate sponsors Macur directly cites:

  • Campbell Soup
  • Pepsi
  • Anheuser-Busch
  • Visa
  • Microsoft
  • Papa John’s [whose CEO, John Schnatter, I’ll be naming soon as one of the participants at the Koch Bros Neu Wannsee Conference]
  • Verizon
  • General Motors
  • FedEx
  • Procter & Gamble

Perhaps those companies don’t realize how much power they have to change a workplace that has gone bad. Perhaps they think it’s not their responsibility. But it is … If they really want to see change in the N.F.L. … they will demand change. Or else.

Perhaps moms, who do most of the shopping for their families, would reach for other brands at the store if they realized those sponsors were complicit in promoting misogyny.

Something drastic needs to be done. And in the world of business, there’s nothing more drastic than losing money.

Great, great piece and a great challenge.

And through Macur’s essay we can see why it usually takes a woman to lead product boycotts in an effort to change politics and culture. We’re the ones who buy the beer.


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