On Sunday, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL, and now he’s done for the year. It’s a devastating injury for Charles, especially given the limited shelf life of most running backs, and for the Chiefs, since Charles is one of the most explosive offensive players in football. And yes – it was bad news for fantasy owners with Charles on their teams. “Sick” or not, this was one prism through which many fans viewed the injury. NFL players are entertainment figures, so it might be expected that fans would look at how something about them impacts their entertainment world.
What we would not expect would be for the NFL itself to publicly do the same. So when we saw the above fantasy football ad, via Steph Stradley, who writes about the Texans for the Houston Chronicle, we were skeptical. This couldn’t be real, could it? The NFL wouldn’t possibly do something this dumb, would it? After all, an ad like this would pretty much be the final straw in ever believing the league cares even the slightest bit about its players’ well-being in more than PR lip service terms. Surely, if that’s the way they felt, they wouldn’t actually advertise that to us all, right?
But Stradley was adamant. She’d seen it on NFL.com’s front page for days. And our Tim Burke showed that the photo was still in the NFL’s system (he, for the record, was also skeptical at the beginning that the ad was real). While that removed all doubt, we’d also contacted NFL spokesman Greg Aiello via Twitter, and he responded:
It was a mistake by fantasy football marketing. Taken down immediately.
And so we could only say, admitted mistake or not: wow. This was real. The NFL actually put this ad out there because someone thought pandering to the idea that your players are just commodities and not actual human beings was a good enough idea to put on their official website. And it even had the players association logo on it. Can you imagine the type of field day DeMaurice Smith would have had with this during the lockout? It’s not even just a generic picture of Charles running; it’s Charles actually injured. The real surprise is that there was no outcry before this.
Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter was surprised the Charles ad existed at all, and was unsurprised to hear that NFL.com visitors are now greeted by a fantasy ad featuring Wes Welker. There are “too many good people” working for the league to leave such an ad up, Trotter said. This, surely, is true, and like Aiello said, the ad is now down.
Regardless, though, putting that ad up at all was one really bad move. Should we be surprised that the wildly successful NFL made a decision that valued the bottom line above all else? Of course not. But we can be surprised that it would be so public, so transparent. We said the NFL has got to be kidding in the headline – and they tried to be light-hearted with the way they did the ad, we think – but, well, no, they’re not kidding. As if there was any doubt.