The Hypocrisy of the NFL’s “Inspire Change” Commercial

Damian Swann displays Breonna Taylor’s name on his helmet in sign of solidarity.  

It’s Sunday night, and I’m watching the Super Bowl. The game cuts away to a series of commercials: one from M&M, another from Uber Eats. And then, a new commercial appeared.

A narrator began preaching about football and the importance of coming together to change. Over this narrator, clips of NFL teams and Black Lives Matter protests were visible, and I began wondering who was behind this commercial. Then, I saw this message sprawled across the TV screen: “The NFL is committing $250 million to help end systemic racism. While the season is over, our fight for social justice is not.” 

The NFL had the audacity to say that it is fighting for social justice? I was shocked at what I had just watched. I immediately headed to Twitter, and many people shared my sentiment. How could the NFL be so hypocritical? 

Let’s start with this fact: in the NFL, there are only three black head coaches and no majority black ownership. This extreme lack of diversity is not only problematic, but completely undermines the NFL’s message of “Inspire Change.” The NFL has a diversity problem, yet told nearly 100 million viewers during the Super Bowl that they are inspiring change. No, NFL, you are not inspiring change. Your lack of diversity is inspiring viewers to move backwards, not forward.

Something that really stood out to me after watching this commercial was the controversy involving San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In 2016, Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem, and many people publicly condemned his actions. I remember when this was at the forefront of our news and discussed it in my U.S. History class. Our class was divided, like the rest of the country. Personally, I thought what Kaepernick was doing was courageous and necessary for the time. 

However, many did not. By 2018, Kaepernick had opted out of his contract, and the NFL made a policy that kneeling during the National Anthem would result in punishment, following pressure from then President Donald Trump. At this time, it was clear that the NFL did not care about Kaepernick, social justice or the widespread racism that they were promoting. 

This is why I was so shocked to see the league boasting about its $250 million being used to “end systemic racism.” Where was this when Kaepernick was bringing light to the issue? The NFL can’t just move with the trends about what seems right whenever they please. They have to get ahead of these issues, especially when players publicly express concern about how people of color are being treated in our country. 

It is great that the NFL is finally stepping up and committing to doing what is right. Of course, change is a good thing. But the fact that it took the NFL this long and it is boasting about all the good it is doing now as if it hasn’t taken the opposite stance is flat out wrong. It has long been part of the problem.

There are so many ways that the “Inspire Change” commercial could have been portrayed to viewers. The NFL chose the wrong way. I can’t fathom the thought process behind creating this commercial. The fact that multiple people thought this commercial was a good idea and should be approved is baffling to me. 

We can’t pretend like the NFL’s previous actions and its lack of diversity doesn’t exist. At the very least, this commercial could have been about how the NFL is committed to doing better. A genuine acknowledgement of wrongful past actions, coupled with specific ways in which the NFL is changing, would have been a much more effective commercial.