NFL and Corporate Social Responsibility

The National Football League (NFL) has come under a lot of scrutiny lately around issues ranging from domestic violence, cheating scandals, drug abuse and civil unrest issues such as fighting and drug usage.  However, most of these incidents are isolated and even though it garners a lot of media attention, it is rarer than often perceived.  The NFL, like many other global brands, has developed a mindset of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to help mend fences and keep their brand image high in public perception.

The NFL, as most other companies, are often reactive to issues as something has already happen.  As discovered that most professional athletes go bankrupt when their playing days are over, the NFL set forth mandatory financial training for all rookies.  When the video of Ray Rice punching his wife in an elevator became public, Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, took a lot of criticism over decisions made about the handling of the situation.  Soon afterwards, other ‘player incident’ issues would arise.  NFL leadership had to step in and repair the NFL’s reputation as it was open season on player episodes throughout the media.  The NFL decided to step up a campaign of CSR through promoting a domestic violence prevention campaign labeled “No More”.  This campaign showed several NFL players saying things such as “no more, he is a nice guy.”  This commercial is designed to imply that women need to stop making excuses for guys who abuse them physically or mentally.

Around this same time frame, the NFL announced that they have also brought three experts in domestic violence to serve as senior advisors to the league (NFL hires domestic violence advisers, 2014).  Let’s be honest, these steps were taken to ease the public outcry that NFL leadership was not doing anything significant.  NFL leadership implemented the campaign commercial and advisors to show the public they recognize the need and are taking the steps necessary.

Many other iconic corporations have been caught up in similar dilemmas such as McDonald’s and their high calorie, high fat food products or Coca-Cola and their use of cocaine in soda formulas or Nike and their use of underpaid employees at foreign sweat shops plus the ration of shootings surround the Air Jordan’s of the 1990s.  Events such as these are now easily spread around the globe because internet and social media outlets, which has forced companies to be more socially conscious and aware of how their brand is perceived.  It is more important now, than ever, for corporations to be out in front of potential issues and convince consumers that purchasing their brand items are not only in their best interest, but society’s best interest as well.

Think about it; as consumers we have a surplus of choices when deciding on a particular item to buy; how do you choose one brand over another?  Do you simply compare cost, status or quality of each brand or product?  Do you maybe consider how these corporations are viewed in the media, globally, or perhaps how ethical the company is… what about how they treat employees or if they are involved in community projects?

Chances are, most people think they are ‘smart shoppers’ and believe they choose products by price and quality.  However, according to Reputation Institute, a global consulting firm which interviewed over 55,000 consumers from 15 different markets, 60% of an individual’s choice is driven by your perception of the company and 40% by the actual product or service sold (Smith, 2013).  This study used statistical measures to rank people’s emotional indicators of trust, esteem, admiration and good feeling.  Then also took score in dimension of corporate reputation: workplace, governance, citizenship, financial performance, leadership, products, services and innovation (Smith, 2013).

Even though most people are not familiar with term Corporate Social Responsibility, the study shows that most people do recognize that the effect of CSR speaks to who the company is and what it believes in.  About half of an individual’s willingness to trust, follow, respect and feel good about an organization is based on their opinions of the organization’s social effect (Smith, 2013).  The NFL, which faces scrutiny in the media and from women’s groups, must step up their social responsibility and hope the perception changes over time.  However, in the current, this remains a hot topic and the NFL must maintain their push and education in accountability to recover their positive image.  It is often better for a corporation to step up and recognize their issues publicly and lay out a plan to recover by working out problems.  Much like Nike, McDonald’s and others before them, the NFL can recover and maintain their status.


NFL hires domestic violence advisers. (2014, 9 15). Retrieved from ESPN:

Smith, J. (2013, 10 2). The Companies With the Best CSR Reputations. Retrieved from Forbes:


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