NFL profiting regardless of numerous abuse cases

Despite numerous cases of abuse involving some of its most well known players last season, the NFL is not really feeling any type of backlash. In fact, business and popularity has never been better.

This may be shocking to some considering the plethora of utterly disturbing incidents the league faced last season. The public outcry and significant disappointment expressed among the league’s fan base seemed to surely have an impact on the NFL’s profits or at least its popularity, right?

Nope, not even a little bit.

The booming popularity of the NFL is most evident in the national revenue the league accrued during the 2014 campaign. On Monday, ESPN reported the amount the NFL collected and split between the 32 teams totaled $7.24 billion, with each team collecting $226.4 million, mostly from television deals.

Money-wise the NFL did phenomenal in 2014, but to say the league had a rough year publicity-wise is a vast understatement.

Less than two weeks into the 2014 season, the release of the now-infamous elevator video where former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice strikes his then-fiancé and then proceeds to drag her unconscious body out of the elevator as if she were nothing more than a rag doll started what would be a horrendous year for the league’s image.

To make the incident worse for the league, a report by former FBI Director Robert Mueller showed the NFL had access to the video well before it was published by TMZ but chose not to give Rice the adequate punishment until the video became available for the world to see. While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insists the league did not watch the video despite having it in its possession (which is rather hard to believe), many fans remained rightfully furious with the league and its commissioner.

During the same month of the Rice incident, the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, arguably the league’s best player, was arrested for abusing his 4-year-old son. Photos of the child’s gruesome injuries, which were well beyond the injuries any child should sustain from corporal punishment, quickly surfaced online in what quickly became another image-wrecking incident for the NFL.

Besides Rice and Peterson, the league was also forced to deal with eight other abuse cases during 2014.

Nevertheless, the NFL is doing historic numbers and proving that it still holds the title for most popular professional sport regardless if many of its players are violent testosterone-filled idiots.

With all of the abuse cases, which were mostly domestic abuse cases, it is female fans— ironically— that are largely credited with helping the NFL produce the money it has as of late, as well as helping it reach an all-time popularity high.

Women are the league’s fastest-growing fan demographic, according to statistics from Bloomberg Business. Since 2009, female NFL viewership is up 26 percent overall, compared to an 18 percent rise for men.

Conventional wisdom suggests that every man who could be a football fan already is, and the NFL has squeezed everything it can from that segment of the population. However, there’s still potential to convert even more women into full-time fans.

Female fans, a group obviously beloved by advertisers, represent the league’s biggest opportunity for continued growth. Keeping these women spending has become a chief goal of the NFL, which has funded research, expanded merchandising and sponsored spreads in women’s magazines.

But abuse case after abuse case threatens to undermine the league’s efforts to expand beyond its saturated boys’ club and attract new female fans.

Malcolm Walton can be contacted at [email protected].