From Rachael Nichols to Voltaire Today…

The curtain appears to have come down on the kerfuffle at ESPN between Maria Taylor and Rachel Nichols.  If you do not recall the details, do not bother Googling to learn them; it is not worth the time or the energy it would take to execute the mouse clicks.  In the end, ESPN is probably the winner because yesterday they announced that Rachel Nichols will no longer be on the ESPN airwaves as the host of The Jump and Nichols announced that she is not going to make a scene over this – – at least for now.  Also, as part of the end stage, Maria Taylor shuffled off to NBC with a new contract there.  So, why do I think ESPN is the winner here?

  • Neither Nichols nor Taylor is anywhere near “irreplaceable.”
  • In fact, I find Maria Taylor vapid and Rachel Nichols “meh.”
  • ESPN can do better…

Switching gears …  In the world of bureaucracy, there is something known as Miles’ Law:

  • “Where you stand on any issue depends on where you sit.”

What that means is that one can have different “perspectives” on a given issue depending on the job one has at the moment the issue needs to be addressed.  More cynically, Miles’ Law is a justification for hypocritical behavior as one’s career path advances or declines.  Here we are in 2021 and we can see the NFL wrapping itself in the banner of Miles’ Law.

For decades, the NFL asserted unequivocally that betting on NFL games was evil and that it threatened the integrity of the sport itself.

  • The NFL supported the passage of PASPA to outlaw as much sports betting as was possible at the Federal level.
  • The NFL forbade its “broadcast partners” to include wagering information as part of the game presentation or in studio shows.
  • The NFL would not allow the “broadcast partners” to air commercials for legal betting establishments.
  • The NFL forced Tony Romo and other NFL players to renege on appearance promises for a fantasy football convention because it was in Las Vegas at a casino.
  • The NFL Commissioner told a court that the spread of legalized gambling “threatened to damage irreparably the integrity of and public confidence in NFL football.”
  • The NFL filed amicus curiae with the Supreme Court when PASPA was challenged there seeking to convince the Court to uphold PASPA.

It has been a little over 3 years since the Supreme Court declared PASPA to be unconstitutional.  One might think that the NFL would be four-square behind a strong and bipartisan effort in the Congress to fashion a new bill that would limit gambling on NFL games AND pass legal muster with the Supreme Court.  And this is where Miles’ Law enters the picture.

Rather than reminding everyone that the existence of professional football is now in mortal danger thanks to widespread gambling opportunities on those games as it had asserted for decades, the NFL has “pivoted;” it has “evolved its thinking;” it has “come to grips with the new reality.”  Actually, this is what it has done:

  • The NFL realized that more people will now be able to wager legally on NFL games and that provides the NFL with the opportunity to tap into another revenue stream.
  • The NFL is all about tapping revenue streams.  With money to be made, the NFL behavior devolved to its basic strategy, and it will now live by the motto, “Money talks and bullsh*t walks.”

As far as I can tell, the NFL has three official sports betting partners in Fan Duel, Draft Kings and Caesars Entertainment.  According to one report I read, the NFL could take in up to $300M this season for its role in those partnerships.  If the history of the NFL is any guide, that $300M in a year is just the starting point for this new revenue source.  It is likely that betting partnerships will never reach the same level of cash flow as the TV network deals, but look at this from an ownership perspective:

  • At $300M per year, if the NFL Front Office skims 5% to fund whatever it is that it does here, that leaves about $9M per team.  That is almost like found money on the sidewalk for owners.
  • So, imagine if someday the NFL revenue from its “betting partners” triples – or even quadruples.

There you have the motivation behind the league’s “evolved thinking.”  It has not evolved at all; it simply found a way to monetize for itself the sort of thing that it opposed in the past because they had not yet figured out how to monetize it.  And yet, the league still must walk carefully in this area lest it throw up betting activity into the face of those viewers – live and on TV – who are not so hot on that sort of thing.  There are people who do not like gambling and the NFL does not want to drive them away from its product,

So, here is where the NFL has drawn the line for 2021:

  • The NFL will allow no more than six sportsbook TV ads per game.

There you have the evolution of thought…

Finally, the French philosopher, Voltaire, summarized the NFL’s behavior regarding sports betting very well about 250 years ago:

“When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “From Rachael Nichols to Voltaire Today…”

    1. Rich:

      AND recall that the league made Joe Namath sell off his part of a night club because gamblers and ne’er-do-wells were in attendance…

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