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Ray Rice Financial Impact on the NFL

rr-1I am sick to my stomach. More than once I have watched the security video from the elevator in which Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice threw a right punch at his then fiance’  and now, almost unbelievably, his wife. She is lucky to still be alive.

Rice is lucky not to have suffered the same fate that Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Rey Carruth suffered when he hired a contract killer to dispose of his wife. There are very real societal questions that ought to be asked as a result of Rice’s actions. Very real changes are in order.

However, for all of the hand-wringing in the NFL corporate offices, and for all the interviews that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will do as he attempts to smooth over the league’s image (and keep his job) the questions linger: Will the NFL Suffer Financially as a Result Of Rice’s Actions? The short answer is “No.”

The National Football League operates a monopoly in the American lexicon and marketplace. Hundreds of billions of dollars are paid to the league by CBS, NBC, FOX and ESPN for the privilege of televising the weekly gladiatorial events.

You Said That Was the “Short Answer.” Is There a Long Answer Concerning The NFL? Yes, there is. While the NFL, with its glorification of the “man cave” is considered a male-centric enterprise the truth is more nuanced than that. In 2012, 37.6 % of weekly NFL viewers were women.

If the league brushed Rice’s actions under the table as it appeared they did with the two-game wrist slap suspension that Commissioner Roger Goodell gave him before the video evidence surfaced, those women might find something else to watch. It is a truism in the retail world that men don’t boycott well. Women do.

How About Merchandise Sales? There will be a dip in Ravens’overall merchandise sales in the short-term. Ray Rice was the 11th highest selling jersey in 2012, and the 14th highest even after a bad year in 2013. There is a certain segment of society that rallies behind a player accused of bad behavior (see Cleveland Browns’ rookie quarterback “Johnny rr-2Football” Manziel) and snaps up his jersey. Such will not be the case when it comes to a man who savagely beat his lady to unconsciousness in an elevator.

How Long Will That Dip Last? About 10 minutes. The Ravens played the Steelers on Thursday Night Football. The Ravens won 26-6. Bernard Pierce carried the ball 22 times for 98 yards, and Owen Daniels scored two touchdowns for the Ravens. Expect sales of #30 jerseys (Pierce) and #81 jerseys (Daniels) to fill in the gap.

To their credit the NFL has hired an independent investigator to determine whether the league had access to the elevator footage as early as April. But the frustration that people feel in the case of Ray Rice and others like him that will hit the news (trust me on that) is that the league is, in fact, bulletproof.

Games will be watched; products advertised will be purchased, and the economic engine of the NFL will continue apace. Is that a good or a bad thing? That’s a matter for the national conversation that ought to take place between parents and sons and parents and daughters in living rooms across the land.

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