Super Bowl’s Hollywood Moment Outshines NFL’s Problems

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Blue and yellow confetti rained down on the sector after the ultimate whistle blew within the Tremendous Bowl on Sunday night time because the Los Angeles Rams completed off the upstart Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20. It was the Rams’ first Tremendous Bowl title as a California workforce and a becoming capstone to the NFL’s lengthy journey again to Los Angeles.

The sport, and its veneer of fireworks, flyovers and high-fives — watched by greater than 100 million followers — additionally affirmed an NFL axiom but once more: The motion on the sector trumps the league’s countless parade of scandals, controversies and debates.

Days earlier than Sunday’s recreation, NFL Roger Goodell, at his pregame information convention, fought off questions on discriminatory hiring practices and the Commissioner of sexual harassment in opposition to a workforce proprietor that led the league to start one more investigation into how the Washington soccer franchise is run .

Goodell pivoted away from the uncomfortable inquisition by leaning on a pillar of the league’s long-term progress technique, enlargement abroad: He introduced that the NFL deliberate to play 4 video games in Germany within the coming years.

The league’s transformation right into a multimedia juggernaut, one which is ready to steamroll any controversy, was on full show in Tremendous Bowl LVI, held adjoining to the nation’s leisure capital, with nary a point out of the troubles which have roiled professional soccer of late.

The sport was performed at SoFi Stadium, a $5 billion digital palace constructed by one of many wealthiest males in sports activities, the workforce proprietor E. Stanley Kroenke, who moved the Rams franchise to Los Angeles six years in the past with the blessing of the NFL After being sued by town and county of St. Louis for violating their very own relocation pointers, the Rams and the NFL in November agreed to pay $790 million to settle the case. To not fear: The worth of his workforce has practically quadrupled because it returned to California in 2016.

Kroenke’s stadium, which opened in September 2020 and can be house to the Los Angeles Chargers, is symbolic of the place the league is headed. The final time the Tremendous Bowl was performed within the Los Angeles area, in 1993, on the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the NFL was already the nation’s largest and most worthwhile league. However its revenues have been nonetheless part of an analog world by which promoting tickets and beer have been a significant focus.

Since then, the NFL has grown right into a $16 billion behemoth that digitally distributes its main product, soccer video games, to allow them to be considered on telephones, recreation consoles and TV screens at anywhere and any time. Those self same video games have additionally turn into the gas for video video games, fantasy soccer leagues and, most not too long ago, accepted sports activities playing, which all pour cash into the league via its profitable licensing offers.

Soccer-related content material and video games are actually so ubiquitous that many soccer followers by no means attend a recreation. The 70,048 followers at Sunday’s Championship recreation used digital tickets that got here with a commemorative non-fungible token, or NFT

As Phil de Picciotto, the president of Octagon, a worldwide sports activities and leisure company, stated in an interview on Friday: “The NFL is actually {the marketplace} that everyone involves and everyone meets at, whether or not it is bodily or digitally.”

Put one other approach, the NFL’s video games are actually primarily mental property to slice, cube and resell.

This is not accidentally. The large cultural pull of soccer has made video games the final communal, stay vacation spot programming for broadcasters, an enormous draw for media platforms seeking to construct their streaming audiences. The vast majority of TV’s high 100 most-viewed applications every year are soccer video games. In a fractured media panorama, the NFL stands alone like Goliath.

Within the weeks earlier than the Tremendous Bowl, the retirement of Tom Brady, the league’s largest draw over a 22-season profession, and information {that a} former coach, Brian Flores, was suing the NFL for discrimination overshadowed discussions about how the 2 Tremendous Bowl groups would match up. These headlines, massive as they have been, had nothing on crucial occasion to the NFL’s backside line, a deal that went largely unnoticed amongst followers when it was introduced final March.

The league negotiated new broadcast agreements with NBC, CBS, ESPN, Fox and Amazon value about $110 billion over 11 years, practically double the worth of its earlier contracts and roughly 4 occasions greater than the NBA at the moment receives.

The media cash rolling in is so huge that each NFL workforce turns a revenue even earlier than it activates the lights.

These outsize income are an enormous motive that within the coming months the Denver Broncos are projected to promote for round $4 billion, practically twice as a lot as what David Tepper paid in 2018 for the Carolina Panthers, the final NFL workforce to vary palms.

Conscious of the league’s spotty report on variety and that just about each workforce proprietor is white, Goodell, at his information convention, talked about he would “like to see a various proprietor” of the Broncos.

With unparalleled cultural attain and sources, the league absorbs criticism for the way it treats the people who find themselves on the coronary heart of its closely commodified product. Along with his lawsuit, Flores, who’s a Black Hispanic coach, shined an uncomfortable gentle on the sideline of a league the place practically 60 p.c of the gamers are Black but solely a handful of head coaches are of shade. On Sunday, even President Biden stated in an interview that the NFL should rent extra coaches of shade as “a requirement I consider some simply generic decency.”

Goodell can be making an attempt to overtake the league’s much-scrutinized report on the therapy of ladies, which was sparked anew by a former worker of the Washington Commanders telling a Congressional spherical desk that the workforce proprietor Daniel Snyder had sexually harassed her.

The NFL stated Flores’s swimsuit was “with out benefit,” and Snyder known as the allegations “lies.” However Goodell introduced two new investigations, certainly one of Snyder and the opposite of the league’s hiring report.

The scandals will dent however not diminish the NFL’s newest Hollywood second, which was a long time within the making. When the Rams and the Raiders deserted Southern California after the 1994 season, the NFL tried to entice one other workforce to maneuver to the nation’s second-largest metropolitan space. For years, nobody might discover a option to construct a brand new stadium.

Whereas it waited to search out the appropriate mixture of groups and venues, the NFL created web sites and cell phone apps; began NFL Sunday Ticket, a broadcast service that exhibits customers each out-of-market recreation; and Recreation Cross, which does the identical factor on a pc.

In 2003, the league began NFL Community, a 24-hour cable channel primarily based within the Los Angeles space dedicated to soccer.

“It is simply snowballed as media has continued to extend and proliferate with the variety of screens and variety of platforms,” stated Hans Schroeder, the chief working officer at NFL Media.

Within the digital realm, the Madden online game franchise grew to become extra subtle and ubiquitous. After some hesitation, the league embraced fantasy soccer, which grew to become a precursor to the league embracing legalized sports activities playing after some hesitation.

Fred Gaudilli, the producer of “Sunday Evening Soccer” at NBC Sports activities, sees little letup on this melding of soccer as leisure: “It is a machine that retains getting fed, and it feeds its followers,” he stated.

Emmanuel Morgan contributed reporting.


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