Managing the NFL Brand

I didn't really agree with this Jemele Hill column, for reasons that are probably clear in some of my early posting on Gregg Williams and paying for injury. But I appreciated this link to Troy Aikman who outlines the potential problems for the NFL, including--but not limited to--prevelance of brain injuries:


League officials and owners are "very concerned about concussions," said Aikman, who is now a television analyst. He added, "the long-term viability, to me anyway, is somewhat in question as far as what this game is going to look like 20 years from now." 

Aikman does not have a son, but said, "if I did, I wouldn't tell him he couldn't play football. If he wanted to, I would say 'OK, great.' But I don't know if I would be encouraging him to play. Whereas, with the other sports, you want your kids to be active and doing those types of things..."

On the NFL's "football every night" strategy, while restricting certain games to its own network:

"I believe, and this is my opinion, that at some point football is not going to be the No. 1 sport. You talk about the ebbs and flows of what's popular and what's not. At some point, the TV ratings are not going to be there." Aikman admitted, "I can't justify that because the numbers say otherwise, but I guess time will tell." 

The absence of football in Los Angeles was an indicator to Aikman that the NFL could have long-term issues. "At one time, watching football was an event," Aikman said. "Monday Night Football was a big event. Now you get football Sunday, you get it Monday, you get it Thursday and, late in the year, you get it on Saturday. 

"People in Los Angeles realized, 'You know what, life's OK without the NFL.' If I'm an owner, I don't want any fan thinking that." Aikman realized this problem when the NFL Network was developed. 

At first, he said, when "people couldn't get [the channel] in the homes and, all of sudden, fans, me included, were saying, 'I wasn't getting the Thursday night game and I was OK with that.' That's not a good thing."

Same for me. It's the weirdest thing, but the Thursday night games almost happen in some sort of phantom-zone and the scores are transmitted through sub-space. When I read the report I'm always like, "Oh yeah, there was a football game on last night." 

With that said, I'm sure the entire strategy of an NFL network was really about growth and the future. 
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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