Hollywood's Super Bowl moment overshadows NFL problems

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Blue and yellow confetti rained down on the pitch after the final whistle in the superbowl Sunday evening when Los ...


INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Blue and yellow confetti rained down on the pitch after the final whistle in the superbowl Sunday evening when Los Angeles Rams finish the upstart Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20. It was the Rams’ first Super Bowl title as a California team and a cornerstone of the NFL’s long journey back to Los Angeles.

The game, and its veneer of fireworks, flyovers and high-fives – watched by more than 100 million fans – also affirmed once again an NFL axiom: on-field action outweighs the league’s endless parade of scandals, controversies and debates.

Days before Sunday’s game, NFL commissioner Roger Goodelduring his pre-match press conference, brushed off questions about discriminatory hiring practices and sexual harassment allegations against a team owner that led the league to start another investigation how the Washington football franchise is run.

Goodell walked away from the uncomfortable inquisition by building on a pillar of the league’s long-term growth strategy, overseas expansion: he announced that the NFL plans to play four games in Germany in the years to come.

The league’s transformation into a multimedia juggernaut capable of snuffing out any controversy was on full display in Super Bowl LVI, staged next door to the nation’s entertainment capital, with no mention of the issues that have rocked professional football in recent times. time.

The game was played at Sofia Stadiuma $5 billion digital palace built by one of the richest men in sports, team owner E. Stanley Kroenke, who moved the Rams franchise to Los Angeles six years ago with the blessing of the NFL After being sued by the city and county of St. Louis for violating their own relocation guidelines, the Rams and the NFL in November agreed to pay $790 million to settle the case. Don’t worry: the value of his team has almost quadrupled since his return in California in 2016.

Kroenke Stadium, which opened in September 2020 and is also home to the Los Angeles Chargers, is symbolic of where the league is headed. When the Super Bowl was last played in the Los Angeles area in 1993 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the NFL was already the largest and most profitable league in the country. But his income was still part of an analog world in which selling tickets and beer was a major focus.

Since then, the NFL has grown into a $16 billion giant that digitally distributes its core product, football games, so they can be viewed on phones, game consoles and TV screens anywhere. and anytime. These same games have also become the fuel for video games, fantasy football leagues and, more recently, approved sportsbooks, all of which pour money into the league through its lucrative licensing deals.

Football-related content and games are now so ubiquitous that many football fans never attend a match. The 70,048 fans of Sunday’s Championship game used digital tickets that came with a commemorative non-fungible token, or NFT

As Phil de Picciotto, president of Octagon, a global sports and entertainment agency, said in an interview on Friday: “The NFL is essentially the market where everyone comes and where everyone meets, whether either physically or digitally.”

In other words, NFL games are now mostly intellectual property to be sliced, dice, and resold.

It is not by chance. The tremendous cultural pull of football has made the games the latest common, live programming destination for broadcasters, a huge draw for media platforms looking to grow their streaming audience. The majority of the top 100 most-watched television programs each year are football matches. In a fractured media landscape, the NFL stands alone as Goliath.

In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Tom Brady’s retirement, the league’s biggest tie in a 22-season career, and news that a former coach, Brian Flores, was suing the NFL for discrimination overshadowed talk of how the two Super Bowl teams would face off. . Those headlines, big as they were, had nothing on the most important event for the NFL’s bottom line, a deal that went largely unnoticed among fans when it was announced last March.

The league has negotiated new broadcast deals with NBC, CBS, ESPN, Fox and Amazon worth approximately $110 billion over 11 years, nearly double the value of his previous deals and about four times more than the NBA currently receives.

The media money pouring in is so vast that every NFL team is making a profit before they even turn on the lights.

These outsized profits are a major reason why, in the coming months, the Denver Broncos are expected to sell for around $4 billion, nearly double what David Tepper paid in 2018 for the Carolina Panthers, the last NFL team to change hands.

Aware of the league’s uneven record on diversity and the fact that nearly all team owners are white, Goodell, during his press conference, mentioned that he “would love to see a diverse owner” of the Broncos.

With unprecedented cultural reach and resources, the league is absorbing criticism for how it treats the people who are at the heart of its heavily commodified product. With his lawsuit, Flores, who is a black Hispanic coach, has cast an uncomfortable light on the sideline of a league where nearly 60% of players are black but only a handful of head coaches are of color. Sunday, even President Biden said in an interview that the NFL needs to hire more coaches of color as “a requirement I think of just generic decency”.

Goodell is also trying to revise the league’s much-scrutinized file on the treatment of women, which was reignited by a former Washington commanders employee who told a congressional roundtable that team owner Daniel Snyder, sexually harassed her.

The NFL said Flores’ lawsuit was “baseless” and Snyder called the charges “lies.” But Goodell announced two new investigations, one from Snyder and the other from the league’s hiring record.

Scandals will shake but not diminish the NFL’s final Hollywood moment, which spanned decades. When the Rams and Raiders abandoned Southern California after the 1994 season, the NFL tried to entice another team to move to the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area. For years no one found a way to build a new stadium.

While waiting to find the right combination of teams and locations, the NFL has created websites and applications for mobile phones. launched NFL Sunday Ticket, a streaming service that shows consumers all out-of-market games; and Game Pass, which does the same thing on a computer.

In 2003, the league launched NFL Network, a 24-hour cable channel based in the Los Angeles area devoted to football.

“It’s just a snowball effect as media has continued to grow and proliferate with the number of screens and the number of platforms,” ​​said Hans Schroeder, chief operating officer at NFL Media.

In the virtual domain, the Madden video game franchise has gotten more sophisticated and ubiquitous. After some hesitation, the league embraced fantasy football, which became a forerunner of the league embracing legalized sports betting after some hesitation.

Fred Gaudelli, the producer of “Sunday Night Football” at NBC Sports, sees little respite in this fusion of football as entertainment: “It’s a machine that never stops feeding, and it feeds its fans,” he said. -he declares.

Emmanuel Morgan contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Hollywood's Super Bowl moment overshadows NFL problems
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