Fear of a public backlash (whiplash?) over American football’s efforts to rein in concussions has led to the National Football League deeming that a Toyota commercial which featured visuals of children colliding helmet-to-helmet be altered.
The New York Times reported here that Toyota edited the commercial under pressure from the NFL.
The ad highlighted Toyota’s decision to share crash research with scientists studying football concussions.
The original commercial which aired in November featured a mother worried ‘about my son playing football’ and showed two children colliding helmet-to-helmet has been altered so that the mother is now worried ‘about my son playing sports’ and the helmet collision has disappeared altogether.
George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in 1984 couldn’t have done it any better!
The article noted that Zoe Ziegler, a spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Sales USA, said that the changes were made at the NFL’s insistence and that if Toyota did not change the ad, the league had threatened to cut back or terminate its ability to advertise during games.
Defending their position, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy felt it was unfair to single out football as concussions are not unique to just football.
However, the facts suggest otherwise. According to the New York Times, research conducted at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio show that high school football players report about 100,000 concussions per year whereas the second through ninth-ranked sports combined total 110,000.
Further, a study published in the December 2010 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that there are an estimated 136,000 sports-related concussions among high school athletes annually and that football players account for 57% of the total figure with boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, volleyball, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball accounting for the remaining 43%. The abstract is here.
So much for picking on football.
In a case involving one player striking another on-the-field but away from the play, the trial court in Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals, Inc. 435 F.Supp. 352 (D. Colo. 1977) held that the NFL ‘has substituted the morality of the battlefield for that of the playing field, and the ‘restraints of civilization’ have been left on the sidelines.’
And now the NFL massages commercials and makes offending images of legal hits disappear.
Talk about brand management and wanting to have your cake and eat it too!
Make no bones about it; American football is violent and barbaric. This is part of its appeal and marketability.
In the current climate of concern over concussions, the league is faced with a challenge of its own making: How to market a game which is inherently violent to a public that is becoming tired of the violence and uneasy about brain injuries?