Super Bowl charity campaign targets morally conflicted football fans

Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots is hit by Barry Church #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (CREDIT: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

There are plenty of reasons not to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday evening between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eageles — the fact that we are watching men destroy their brains in real time; the fact that the NFL has botched its handling of everything from athlete activism to domestic violence to player safety; or the fact that the Patriots are playing in the game, yet again, and their owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady all have close ties to President Donald Trump.

And yet, most of us will be watching the game anyways, albeit with a pang of guilt and self-loathing as we devour nachos and cheer for our picks.

Thankfully, two friends are doing their best to turn that inevitable despair into something, well, good. Enter, #AGoodGame, an online donations campaign that encourages conflicted football fans to donate to charity every time their favorite — or, in the case of this Super Bowl, least-hated — team scores.

The idea was born last year, when friends and lifelong Patriots fans Josh Gondelman and Emma Sandoe were texting back and forth in the lead-up to the New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons Super Bowl. They both couldn’t help but dream of victory, and yet, as progressives, they found the relationship between the Patriots and Trump “distressing.”

Specifically, Gondelman said that the endorsement letter that Belichick wrote to Trump, which Trump read aloud at a rally in Massachusetts the night before the election, was “the one that broke me.”

“We’re fans, but their politics were making it feel morally questionable,” Sandoe said. “So we thought of this idea to give money each time they score.”

It really is that simple. People can pledge to donate money to whatever charity they prefer any time their team scores. That way, Sandoe says, everyone is rooting for a good, high-scoring game, so that charities receive more donations. Last year, more than $100,000 was raised thanks to the #AGoodGame campaign, and Sandoe and Gondelman hope that this year’s campaign can be even bigger.

However, Sandoe urges people to get creative with it. In 2017, some of her friends who didn’t have money to spare said they were going to make a certain number of calls to a member of Congress every time their team scored. Both Gondelman and Sandoe found themselves donating each time there was a jaw-dropping catch or other big play as well. And, they are aware that the Patriots are not the most well-liked team across the nation, so if you want to donate every time something bad happens to the Patriots in the game, feel free. As long as you’re donating.

Gondelman stresses that this does not take the place of activism and community support, and that, of course, people are encouraged to donate to causes they are passionate about on a year-round basis. But, as he continues to wrestle internally with his football fandom, this is a way to make a positive impact while doing so.

I tried to divorce myself from the NFL in 2014, but my grandmother passed away and in the last weeks and months of her life, one of the last things she planned for herself was Patriots games. One of the last times I saw her I brought her a Brady jersey and we hung it up in the hospital room,” Gondelman said.

“I’m just some garbage townie like anyone else, and I wanted to watch the game. So I could watch the game and not do something, or I could watch the game and do something.”