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.”