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“Stop Kidding Yourselves”: No, Conservatives, You Won’t Stop Watching Football If The NFL Markets Obamacare

News broke last week that the Obama administration had reached out to the National Basketball Association about a partnership to promote the president’s health reform law. Now, it is seeking a similar deal with the National Football League that will involve “paid advertising and partnerships to encourage enrollment” in Obamacare’s new programs, according to The Hill.

I’ve explained why the Obama-NBA partnership makes sense for both parties, and that reasoning holds true for the NFL–and more importantly, the networks that air the games–too. Given the enormous amount of money television networks pay for the right to air football games, they’re unlikely to turn down advertising that will help them reach the break-even point on those investments. And for the Obama administration, football is a logical target. The NFL has the largest audience of any sport in America. It reaches people in demographics that the Obama administration needs to reach with basic information about. And beyond the ads, such a partnership meshes nicely with other corporate citizenship efforts the NFL has undertaken, like its health-driven Play60 campaign. Plus, it’s the law.

Conservatives, to no one’s surprise, are nevertheless outraged. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson said it would be “yet another reminder that football is best watched on Saturdays,” and Twitchy highlighted tweets from conservatives who said it would cause a “mass exodus of support.” “If the NFL backs Obamacare,” one Twitchy tweet says, “they can kiss this season goodbye.”

It’s unlikely the NFL is rethinking its strategy based on a few tweets, but here’s a word of advice in case they are: the idea that people are going to stop watching football because of a few pro-health care ads, most of which will likely deal more with the details of new programs instead of advocating for it on ideological grounds, is absurd. I might personally share Anderson’s view that football is, indeed, best watched on Saturdays, but the NFL is the most popular sport in America. Its TV ratings are sky-high from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. The league has endured two lockouts, the beginnings of a concussion crisis, and plenty of other on- and off-field controversies without turning the masses away. It’s going to take much more than a few health care ads to get people to stop watching.

The NFL, of course, knows that, but that doesn’t mean the partnership is going to happen. The cost of advertising may be too high for the government to pay on a regular basis, or the two sides may just fail to reach an agreement on other collaborations. If it does happen, though, conservatives might kick and scream and send angry tweets that the Twitchy team aggregates into a post every Sunday afternoon. To suggest that people will stop watching, though, is an exaggeration on the same level as cries of “government takeover of health care” and “death panels.”

 

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, June 28, 2013

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Language Massaging”: Frank Luntz Hired By Washington Football Team To Convince People Name Isn’t Horribly Racist

The Washington, D.C.-area NFL franchise has commissioned veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz to conduct some focus groups to see how American football fans feel about the franchise’s name, which is a vile racial slur.

Luntz has also previously consulted for the NFL on matters related to the ongoing lawsuit 4,000 former players filed against the league relating to concussions, and has appeared on ESPN representing the league, but in this case he appears to be working just for the team in question, with the disgusting and offensive name. That team, named after a wildly derogatory name for American Indians, has received a great deal of criticism for its name recently, including a trademark lawsuit and a letter from 10 members of Congress urging a change.

Luntz isn’t just going to get a feel for what people think of the name. Luntz’s specialty is crafting language to sell conservative policies or discredit liberal ones. You hire Luntz not to merely poll, but to figure out how best to sell people on something. It seems reasonable to assume that team owner Daniel Snyder, who has vowed to never change the name, is working now on how best to convince people that his team’s name is not a repellent racial epithet. Luntz’s specialty is renaming things to sound more appealing, but in this case he’ll be crafting the best possible language to use when explaining why something shouldn’t be renamed. (Luntz was reprimanded by American pollsters’ official professional association for his work on the 1994 GOP “Contract With America,” because he was suspiciously vague about how many people he actually polled after claiming that polls showed that Americans loved the contract.)

Luntz is actually fantastically good at his job — so good that he’s convinced quite a few seemingly intelligent liberals that Luntzian language-massaging is the secret behind all conservative electoral success — which is why he is basically Fox News and the House Republicans’ message-crafter-in-residence. He renamed the estate tax “the death tax.” He told the GOP to refer to Democratic healthcare reform as “a Washington takeover” and financial reform as a “big bank bailout bill.”

ThinkProgress reports that Luntz sent out an email survey designed to find eligible focus group participants. The survey asked about the team’s name directly, asking respondents to select either “I find the name offensive and they should change it” or “I don’t find the name offensive and they should keep it as is.”

This Washington football team was named by one of the most vehement racists in the history of American professional sports. When George Marshall bought the team in 1932, they were called the Boston Braves. He changed the name — to a slur, because he was a racist — and moved them to Washington. He made “Dixie” one of the team’s fight songs and refused to hire black players well into the 1960s. The NFL integrated in 1946 but Marshall’s team held out until the federal government actually forced them to field black players in 1963. The all-white Washington teams of the 1950s and 1960s were among the worst in the league, but segregation was more important to Marshall than winning football games. The NFL had actually already been racially integrated until black players were suddenly banned in 1933. Interviews with owners suggest that Marshall was responsible for the ban.

This is the man who named the team and white supremacy and racism obviously informed his every decision. In his will he insisted that his foundation not spend any money on “any purpose which supports or employs the principle of racial integration in any form.” It is extremely hard to believe that this man selected the name — specially changed the name from a less offensive term for American Indians to this term — to “honor” anyone, the usual argument used by the team’s modern defenders.

The current owner of the team, an incompetent lying corporate buffoon named Dan Snyder, is not as racist as George Marshall. (Few living people are.) He is merely dumb, vain, greedy and stubborn. He attempted to sue the Washington City Paper out of existence for printing a story that accurately described him as a thin-skinned moronic avatar of greed dedicated to bleeding fans of his team dry. He eventually dropped the case.

The City Paper, it should be noted, refuses to use the teams’ name, and refers to it as the “Pigskins,” which would be a fine replacement. The Kansas City Star has a similar policy but, notably, none of the other major Washington-area media outlets do. If the Washington Post — or Disney-owned ESPN! — adopted a similar policy, it could actually force a change, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon. Some Post columnists have written about their opposition to the name, but the paper needs access to the team to be able to have a sports section. It should be noted that even Jack Abramoff knows the name is gross. (It should also be noted that he and Snyder were quite friendly: “A few seasons later, I was given first choice of the new suites in the former press section and our expenditures at Fed Ex Field grew exponentially.”)

That Snyder is hiring Frank Luntz suggests a certain amount of concern that nationwide blasé acceptance of his team’s name may be coming to an end. He certainly didn’t seem to take criticisms particularly seriously before — his team’s P.R. desk has usually just pointed to a couple of polls and dismissed critics as unimportant — but now he is writing letters to Congress and working out a P.R. strategy. That’s good. It means he’s losing. But it doesn’t mean he’ll lose. The team has successfully fought public pressure for decades, and the NFL has other high-priority P.R. nightmares distracting it from taking the controversy seriously. And soon we’ll begin hearing some much more convincing arguments in favor of the name, courtesy of Luntz and whatever other high-priced professional spinners Snyder hires.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, June 12, 2013

June 15, 2013 Posted by | Bigotry, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Derogatory History”: Economics May Finally Change The Terrible Name Of Washington’s Football Franchise

A group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as U.S. News’ Lauren Fox reports, is calling on Washington, D.C.’s National Football League franchise – unfortunately called the Redskins – to finally change its name. In a letter to owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the 10 lawmakers, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, write, “Native Americans throughout the country consider the term ‘redskin’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African-Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos … Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”

Snyder has come under increased pressure to change the derogatory name of his franchise, including from the D.C. city leadership and Washington’s (nonvoting) member of the House of Representatives (who cosigned the letter). But, so far, he seems immune to such pressure.

So it was a point the 10 lawmakers made later in their letter that likely highlights the way towards enticing a recalcitrant and belligerent Snyder to come around. And it doesn’t have to do with anyone’s feelings; it has to do with economics.

As Fox notes, “Lawmakers have alerted the NFL that Congress introduced legislation that would amend the 1946 Trademark Act and cancel any trademark that used the term ‘redskin.'” That bill, H.R. 1278, would eliminate one of Snyder’s money-making avenues, removing the trademark protection that prevents other organizations from marketing Redskins gear.

As ThinkProgress’ Travis Waldron explains, “Losing the trademark wouldn’t force the Redskins to change the name. What it would do, however, is make it impossible to stop other people from using it.” The Redskins are the fifth most valuable sports franchise in the world, so cutting off the trademark spigot would likely be more effective, sadly, than the string of Native American leaders who have come forward to explain the derogatory history of the term with which Washington endows its team.

Pro sports (as I’ve noted here before) is a big business and there are myriad ways in which the government is implicitly or explicitly backing the profits of franchises and their owners. And teams, as every fight over public subsidies for a new stadium shows, will go to great lengths to protect that backing. Washington’s team is already facing one lawsuit looking to strip away the trademark; an affirmative act of Congress to finish the trademark off would leave Snyder with quite the conundrum.

For precedent, it’s worth revisiting what led Washington’s football franchise to integrate. Then-owner George Preston Marshall was perfectly content to play up the team’s racist history, leaving it the last segregated squad in the league. He finally relented in 1962, not because of any change of heart, but after the John F. Kennedy administration threatened to refuse the team access to what is now called RFK Stadium, which was on federal land, unless it integrated. (Thomas G. Smith’s “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins” is a good primer on the tale.)

So these 10 members of Congress hit on perhaps the best approach for getting Snyder to change his mind: not going after his sense of decency, but his bottom line.

 

By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Money At Work”: Taxpayers Are Footing The Bill For The Site Of This Year’s Super Bowl

The tenth Super Bowl played in New Orleans, and the first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, will kickoff in a stadium that has received more than $470 million in public support since the storm, as taxpayers have footed the bill for renovations and upgrades in the face of threats from ownership and the National Football League to move the team to another city.

In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans was desperate to keep the Saints from skipping town. The NFL and Saints owner Tom Benson seem to have taken advantage of that desperation, leveraging it into hundreds of millions of dollars in public support — from the city, state, and federal governments — for renovations to the decimated Superdome, which housed Katrina refugees during and after the storm. In 2009, the state committed $85 million more to keep the Saints in town and attempt to woo another Super Bowl, all while signing a lease worth $153 million in a nearby building owned by Benson.

While investors and Benson have profited from the deals, taxpayers haven’t been as lucky, Bloomberg reports:

Talks headed by then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue led to a plan to fix and renovate the Superdome with $121 million from the state, $44 million from the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which oversees the facility, $156 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $15 million from the league. Blanco said a rushed bond deal followed.

Ultimately, the financing cost the district more than three times its $44 million commitment, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from state documents and interviews. […]

In April 2009, Louisiana negotiated a new lease to secure Benson’s promise to keep the team in New Orleans through 2025. The state made $85 million in fresh Superdome improvements, adding luxury seating and moving the press box. A company owned by Benson, Zelia LLC, bought the 26-story tower next to the stadium that had stood mostly vacant since Katrina and renovated it. At the time, Benson put the total cost at about $85 million. The state then signed a $153 million, 20-year lease for office space in the building, which now houses 51 state agencies, according to the Louisiana Administration Division. […]

“A lot of folks in New York made a ton of money,” [former state Treasurer John] Kennedy said. “Louisiana taxpayers didn’t do so well.”

The Superdome certainly needed renovations following Katrina. But its original construction was financed solely by taxpayers, and Benson, who is worth roughly $1.6 billion, didn’t contribute and repeatedly hinted that the Saints would move to San Antonio, Los Angeles, or another city unless taxpayers ponied up. Kennedy, the state treasurer, told Bloomberg he went into negotiations with the NFL and Benson “with a gun against my head.”

Benson isn’t alone. Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wylf used the threat of relocation to help secure public funding for a new stadium, and owners across the NFL are doing the same. Owners of the Miami Dolphins are using the promise of future Super Bowls (even though the event rarely provides the promised economic boost) to lure more money from taxpayers who are already on the hook for the city’s new baseball stadium.

The NFL’s program that provides loans to teams for new facilities is contingent on taxpayer support for at least part of the cost, and only one current NFL facility was built without some sort of public funding.

 

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, February 1, 2013

February 3, 2013 Posted by | Sports, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Life Is Not A James Bond Movie”: Bob Costas Was Right To Denounce Gun Violence

There is a manufactured debate over whether Bob Costas should lose his job for questioning the “gun culture” Costas suggested was responsible for the deaths of an NFL player and his girlfriend. That’s not a real issue; Costas isn’t a news anchor. He’s a sportscaster and commentator, and weighs in all the time on the athletic performances of players and teams. Failing to talk about the role of a firearm in the tragedy would have been a glaring omission.

Had Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher been responsible for only one death—that of Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend and mother of their now-orphaned three-month-old daughter—the conversation might now be about domestic violence. It might be about whether aggressive sports competitions foster aggressive action in other arenas. It might have brought more attention to the problem of violence against women in general.

But Belcher turned a horrible crime into an even more horrible tragedy. He went to the Chief’s practice facility, admitted the murder, thanked his coach and general manager, and then—with the coach and GM watching—shot himself in the head.

It is impossible not to have a conversation about guns, given the circumstances. Belcher might have been able to harm, even kill, Perkins without a gun. He would not have committed suicide in front of two people if he had not had a firearm.

Many people like to believe that if we all had guns, such tragedies would not occur. The theory is that if someone breaks out a weapon—at a Virginia campus, a Colorado movie theater, or a home—the would-be victim could fight back, evenly armed. It’s easy to acquire that delusion when one watches action movies. Many of us would like to believe we would respond that quickly and calculatingly in the event of an armed assault. In real life, things do not happen that way.

In 1999, I was covering the civil conflict in Kosovo, where danger came from several camps—the Kosovo Liberation Army, the police, the paramilitary, the Serb soldiers, and the most dangerous of all—drunk civilians with guns. One day, two radio reporters, a translator, and I were headed back to the provincial capital of Pristina. We saw, up a hill to our left, that a village was being burned down. Foolishly, we drove toward it to see what was happening. Halfway up the hill, I heard a loud and quick series of click-clicks, as Serb paramilitary surrounded our car and pointed machine guns at us.

It took about 20 seconds even to realize what was happening—and this was not in a movie theater or campus; this was in a war zone where such developments are not completely unexpected. My friends put up their hands. I, incomprehensively, lowered my head, protecting it with my hands (did I imagine that would stop the bullet? I have no idea—it was an automatic reaction). They dragged us out of the car, held guns to our heads, and finally let us go, after a long negotiation and a realization on their part that we were just four hapless, unarmed journalists.

People have asked me if I wasn’t sorry I didn’t have a gun. I am not. Had we been armed, we would have been killed for sure, as we would have been seen as combatants. But more importantly, we would never have been able to respond quickly enough to stop any attack. Life is not a James Bond movie. With the exception of trained police and soldiers, none of us is going to be able to respond quickly and accurately enough to stop someone from shooting a gun.

The murder-suicide is a wrenching tragedy, and it should indeed engender all sorts of conversations about domestic violence and the head injuries which can affect football payers’ behavior. But refusing to talk about the role of firearms in the deaths of two young people is another tragedy. And it would create more.

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, December 4, 2012

December 5, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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