NFL: Going Woke or Broke?

It’s a few hours before the Super Bowl. Fans dressed in blue are pouring into sports bars; avocados are being mashed in kitchens across America; and all I can think about is whether the commercials will be woke.

Two weeks ago, Gilette released a short film entitiled “We Believe: The Best That Men Can Be,” which suffered a swift and mighty backlash. The crime? Promoting strong honorable ethics among men—treating women well, standing up to bullies, and being a good father and role model. Incels, MAGA losers, and other lonely men joined hands to decry the reverse racism and possible feminist infiltration of the company itself! These women and people of color simply don’t know their place. 

David Scwartz commented yesterday on the film, “Not only is this absolutely insulting to males but it is absolutely discriminatory. This ad employs the same method of targeting a specific group just as Hitler did to the Jews.” Matt Burkholder added, “Anyone else notice the flagrant Anti-White message in this ad?” 

Other comments presented valid concerns about false virtue signaling and the coopting of a social message by a multinational company accused of various abuses of power. Sure, this can be problematic, but I strongly believe that the merits of promoting social movements,  feminism, anti-racism, and other progressive messages outweigh the detriment.

These companies have large ad budgets and incredible reach. Why shouldn’t they be using that power to promote a positive message, even if they are doing it to make profit? What matters is that they use a position of wealth and influence to get the message out. Think about the alternative: should Gilette really just be selling tired cliches of well-groomed men scoring sexy chicks?

Nike, a company busted for using child labor in the 90s, decided to champion Colin Kaepernick as an athlete-activist and hero and I wholeheartedly applaud their decision. And today, Colin Kaepernick is the elephant in the stadium. He’s the reason the NFL can no longer book first-rate popstars like Rihanna, Usher, and Cardi B to perform on America’s biggest stage. He’s the reason Maroon 5 was struggling to find artists of color for their show to “improve the optics.”

Here’s the thing: as a sport with declining viewership and increased concerns about CTE, the NFL had better start changing with the times. The League can start by updating its rules to better protect players’ heads and bodies; by paying cheerleaders a fair wage and lifting the sexist, patronizing rules governing their etiquette outside of work; and by providing health insurance to retired players who sacrificed their bodies and brains for our entertainment.

I have boycotted the NFL since Kaep was blacklisted, but I’ll watch the commercials to celebrate companies who stand up for what’s right. And if they sell a couple more jerseys or razors because of it, who cares. What’s important is that the right message is out there.

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