The NFL, renowned for its controls on player expression, sometimes to the point of absurdity (such as its prohibition against Colts quarterback Peyton Manning wearing black shoes a few years back to honor all-time great Johnny Unitas) caught wind of a new ambush advertising campaign by Captain Morgan. Basically, the rum maker was going to try to get NFL players to strike the Captain Morgan pose on the field during games. While I can definitely understand the league wanting to stamp this out quickly, there is a slight catch.
Captain Morgan was going to tie each instance where a player did the pose to a significant donation to Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, an organization dedicated to helping former players with the plethora of physical ailments and other problems that ex-NFLers have to deal with. The league has done itself no credit in the past in its dealings with former players, drawing the ire of former players and coaches like Mike Ditka. After Philadelphia Eagles’ player Brent Celek did the pose in a recent game, the league has made it a point to prevent any such thing from happening again.
The NFL has every right to limit on the field promotions, but this could potentially be one more black mark against a league that, quite literally, chews up players and spits them out. No other professional sports league treats its players with the wonton disregard the NFL does, be it the physical hardships encountered or the contracts,which are the most one-sided in favor of management in sports. This could have been an opportunity to join up with a company and bring in some significant money to a worthy organization, and given the league a chance to look like it actually cares about former player’s ailments, which are mostly incurred during the brutally physical game by which the league and its owners make millions.
Instead the league issued a blanket proclamation of “tough luck” to Gridiron Greats and Captain Morgan. And remember, this is a league that has long made enormous chunks of change selling marketing opportunities for beer, so just because it’s an alcoholic beverage maker fronting this idea doesn’t mean it couldn’t work out.
For a league that routinely (and self-servingly) celebrates the contracturally-obligated community service of its current players under a banner of the “Join The Team”, this seems like a short-sighted decision to me. It certainly appears that the NFL cares, all right. Just not about their former players.