The National Football League (NFL) is an American football organization comprising of 32 teams distributed evenly amongst the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. The NFL is considered the most lucrative and financially viable dynamism in American professional sports today. The NFL produces nearly $15 billion in earnings. The teams are valued at a median of $2.5 billion. Their corporate social responsibility mission statement is to “Inspire and unify fans and communities and leave a meaningful impact.”
The NFL is not a publicly traded company. This means their corporate social ratings are not readily available. For that reason, this paper will give several examples of corporate actions taken by the NFL. After listing these examples, we will make our own judgment as to what an appropriate CSR rating should be. The NFL has recently been making strides on improving athlete safety, supporting youth initiatives, and giving back to local and global communities. After receiving much backlash on the topic of athlete injuries and concussions, the NFL has worked on refining their concussion protocol, education, and protection through initiatives like their 2018 Injury Reduction Plan.
The Injury Reduction plan will help educate athletes on the causes of concussions and provide them with safer helmets and equipment. Because of this plan, referees will also enforce new changes in rules like the “Use of the helmet rule” and kick-off modifications. On top of providing better equipment and education to players through the new Injury Reduction Plan, the NFL reaches out to schools and supports the education of young athletes through youth initiatives. Members of the NFL founded the NFL Foundation in 1973. The foundation’s goal is to educate young athletes on the fundamentals of the sport while playing safely. Since its’ launch, the NFL Foundation continues to grant generous donations to high school and college football teams across the country. They also support large charitable enterprises like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Make a Wish Foundation, and the American Heart Association. The charitable grants and donations from the NFL Foundation total to about $10 million every year.
On top of supporting youth initiatives, the NFL is also committed to environmental causes. The NFL has developed a series of initiatives to go green and reduce the environmental impact of their football games. This included the installation of solar panels, turf grass that reduces water consumption, and using recycled steel and concrete for the construction of new stadiums. All these additions are an effort to make a global appeal, promote sustainability, and reduce their overall carbon footprint. Another example of the NFL’s support for environmental causes was in 2017, where they donated over $2.3 million to disaster relief. As well as making an environmental impact, the NFL has an international presence with fans worldwide. Since 2007, the NFL has been hosting yearly overseas games in London at venues like Wembley Stadium. Recently in 2016, the international series has branched out to hosting football games in Mexico City. All these events pay tribute to the fans overseas. The international games give the followers in other countries an opportunity to attend a real NFL game.
The NFL realizes the importance of reaching out to their international fanbase, so they plan on expanding the international series to other countries in the future. Although the NFL has made great strides with their approach to corporate social responsibility, the league is still plagued with domestic violence issues, animal cruelty, and other negligent behavior conducted by players and staff off the field. Consequently, this has hurt the leagues reputation and their corporate social responsibility ratings. In response to these issues, the NFL has made public service announcements during football games. They’ve also addressed these issues publicly on television and released company statements on their social medias. On top of addressing issues publicly, the NFL has introduced domestic violence and DUI prevention programs. These programs are a part of their league wide social justice efforts and shows their commitment to supporting local communities. Considering their long-time support and funding for charity, environmental sustainability, youth initiatives, and commitment to improving their approach to corporate social responsibility, a CSR rating of 67 would be the most appropriate. If the NFL are to continue to learn from their mistakes and make more advances in their CSR approach, their ratings and public perception will most likely increase. However, if they aren’t proactive to address certain issues in the future or condone/turn a blind eye on the negligence of athletes/staff, their ratings could continue to hurt and decrease.
Lastly, when it comes to making a purchase decision, a company’s approach to corporate social responsibility can have a great influence. As conscious consumers, we like to know who, what, and where our money is going to. If the public knows a corporation uses that money towards the help of local communities, youth initiatives, global charity, environmental causes, and employee benefits, then they are more likely to support and spread their name. When a company is socially and ethically proactive, it lets the customer know that profits aren’t the only priority.