Whose Football is It?

Are White people the only racial group that consumes football?

When I look at football programming on ESPN or any network for that matter; when I look at the choice advertising sponsors and the commercials that are played, it seems to me that football is heavily marketed to are White people. That baffles me because there is a huge contingency of Black people, as well as other people of color, who consume the sport of football. What particularly strikes me is that a game whose Black players makeup 70% of the player population is marketed to a predominate White constituency. While Black men only account for 2.8% of enrolled undergraduate students nationwide (when compared to 58% of non-Hispanic Whites), they represent 57% of college football players. However Black people are not the target audience for corporations in the business of selling football.

When I turn on ESPN’s college game day, I hear country music often; rarely any hip-hop and absolutely nothing resembling R&B. I see commercials about Ford trucks, Chevy trucks, and the Home Depot. Whether it's the NCAA, ESPN or both, there has been a strategic and intentional choice made to market football to primarily White consumers. Where the NFL is concerned, the same Home Depot, Ford trucks, Chevy trucks commercials in addition to beer commercials dominate their broadcasting. While Fox and CBS have their own original NFL theme music, NBC has a country music style theme song for its Sunday night football program and ESPN has brought back Hank Williams Jr. to lead his country music-themed Monday night football song. Without saying so explicitly, the football marketing machine, both amateur and professional, has continued the tradition of employing Black labor for White enjoyment. The NFL, NCAA or ESPN will not turn down money from people of color who choose to consume its product, however, the moneymaking machine is most concerned with White consumers. Discussions about Black players protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem has nothing to do with the flag and has nothing to do with the military. For rich White people who are in control of the football money-making structure, it is all about maintaining their revenue stream. If protesting racial injustice bothers White consumers enough to encourage them not to spend their money on consuming football, then the money makers will shut down any matter or form of protest. What matters most to the decision makers is that the money keeps coming in.

Without saying so explicitly, the football marketing machine, both amateur and professional, has continued the tradition of employing Black labor for White enjoyment. The NFL, NCAA or ESPN will not turn down money from people of color who choose to consume its product, however, the moneymaking machine is most concerned with White consumers. Discussions about Black players protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem has nothing to do with the flag and has nothing to do with the military. For rich White people who are in control of the football money-making structure, it is all about maintaining their revenue stream. If protesting racial injustice bothers White consumers enough to encourage them not to spend their money on consuming football, then the money makers will shut down any matter or form of protest. What matters most to the decision makers is that the money keeps coming in.

Although  Black buying power is in the trillions of dollars, corporations, particularly sports corporations, are more concerned about what the White consumer thinks and how the White consumer spends. White consumers dictate the decisions of White owned and White led corporations. The NFL is more concerned about White people boycotting the sport then Black people boycotting the sport. There are a number of Black people, including myself, who have not watched football on television nor have purchased tickets or any football paraphernalia. However, I and others like me are not a priority of the NFL.

Also deserving of attention is answering the question of is the purpose of packaging football as an American game as a White game considering the fact that the majority of players who play are Black? The answer may be specified in the question. Is it because Black people are going to watch Black people anyway or is it because White people don't want to watch Black people? Football, unlike all the other sports, is a sport that highlights team. The other sports talk about the team and the importance of the group however in football there is a militaristic culture; a culture where individuals lose themselves for the greater good. Football players preach the gospel that you give yourself up for and play for your brother; that you're playing for a common goal all for the team. You’ll hear coaches say football is the ultimate team sport and that the lessons you learn in football are some of the greatest life lessons you could ever learn. Football occultists must forgive me but I am a bit cynical.

Baseball, hockey and basketball players aren't covered up; you see their faces. You see who those players are. You get to know who these players are and you can follow the player is much is you can follow the team. Football, however, is a sport where players faces are covered. Helmets not only protect players, but they also protect the fans by masking who the players are. We know that the majority of football players are Black, however by not looking in the eyes of a person we can detach ourselves from their humanity. Like the slaves of antebellum America, these black bodies are for White profit and White entertainment. Generally, we (Americans) watch sports to enjoy athletic competition. Assuming that is true,  why don’t the NFL, NCAA and ESPN  market football to all consumers? Football has supplanted baseball as America's sport, so why is only the White consumer the target audience?

Baseball, basketball, and hockey are marketed to Americans as global games. The international emphasis makes black skin tolerable, if not acceptable. The overt nature of football posited as America's game take the focus off the players and frames the sport itself as Americana… Americana is code for Whiteness “our players may not represent Americana but every other aspect of our game is Americana… we salute the flag, play the national anthem, promote our games with country music and our advertisers recognizant your love of Americana… American cars, American retail, American beer, American women, "’American’ food and American colors.”

Football has as much to do with the mainstreaming of itself more than the actual football and certainly more than the people playing it. In order to negotiate White blue-collar folks watching primarily Black rich athletes play a sport, you must remind them that the sport belongs to them and not the athletes who play it. But also White entitlement is at play; that because Blacks are permitted a riches via professional athletics, they should be humble and keep quiet. On a primal level, some White people just don't like rich Black athletes particularly rich Black athletes not afraid to speak out against White supremacy. To tell White people that the sport belongs to them, even though all people watch the game of football and the players, the majority who are Black, are richer than they will ever be, is to keep them engaged in to keep them as loyal customers. This is the negotiation of integration. Black people live with a myth of equality in exchange for societal inclusion and White people live with a myth of superiority in exchange for product quality.

Private ownership continues to sign everyone’s check while cashing much larger ones.

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