NAACP to NFL: Don't 'fund Fox News' hatred, bigotry, lies and racism' – USA TODAY

Editor’s note: This story was updated after the NFL announced it had reached a deal with ESPN/ABC, NBC, Fox and Amazon Prime.
The NAACP sent a blistering letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league not to allow Fox to use it as a bargaining tool during upcoming rights fees negotiations, and thus help fund Fox News, which the NAACP called “a uniquely destructive force” that “foments racism, undermines public health recovery from the pandemic, and repeatedly attacks the legitimacy of last year’s Presidential election.”
The letter, sent to Goodell from Derrick Johnson, the president and chief executive officer of the NAACP, on March 9, and obtained by USA TODAY Sports, also says in part that “the NFL’s programming should not be used as a bargaining tool for Rupert Murdoch to help fund Fox News’ hatred, bigotry, lies and racism.”
The NFL did not immediately return a request for comment.
The NFL did respond in another way, however. It announced a mega-deal on Thursday afternoon with television partners CBS, Fox, NBC, and ESPN/ABC, also, the league shifted its Thursday night package to Amazon Prime.
It’s another indication of the power of the NFL. It also demonstrated that while the NAACP made a strong statement to the NFL in its letter, in the end, the NFL showed, money is the main driving force in football.
In a statement to USA TODAY Sports, separate from his letter to the NFL, Johnson said: “It is immensely perturbing that the NFL would consider extending its relationship with Fox, especially after the January 6th insurrection on our Capitol. The NFL should not be used as a bargaining tool to help fund Fox News’ racist and dangerous programming.”
“Fox News has gone far and beyond to disinform its viewers, inciting hate, bigotry, and ultimately threatening American democracy,” Johnson said. “We have grave concerns with the NFL’s contract renewal with Fox, and we look forward to having a serious conversation.”
The NFL and executives at ESPN, CBS, Fox and NBC have been in discussions for months about new long-term deals for broadcast rights. Those deals could shatter records for rights fees, according to several reports. The Sports Business Journal reported that the NFL and ESPN have agreed to the outline of a $2.6 billion deal. Another report said the NFL was asking for $2.25 billion a year from Fox. Amazon is also part of the broadcast mix.
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Fox started broadcasting NFL games in 1994 after signing a $1.58 billion deal with the NFL.
Johnson said the NAACP is concerned about the NFL’s association with Fox, and fears money the network will earn from broadcasting games, will help fund Fox News which, Johnson says, pushes hate and divisiveness.
“Dear Mr. Goodell,” Johnson begins, “as our nation continues to perfect its promise of democracy, the NAACP applauds the NFL’s indications of support for social justice. Affirmative statements from League leadership, sizable contributions to benefit marginalized communities, and even stadium signage denouncing bigotry are all helpful gestures toward addressing harsh and disproportionate realities suffered by too many in our society.
“Unfortunately, not all public influencers are willing to dedicate resources to achieving social equity. Notably, Fox News continues to inflame racial division and propagate an unstable political climate.
“We are aware the NFL is currently negotiating carriage agreement renewals with broadcast partners. While we look forward to wide distribution of America’s favorite sports pastime, we have grave concerns about the ancillary implications of the League’s affiliation with Fox.
“The NFL’s programming should not be used as a bargaining tool for Rupert Murdoch to help fund Fox News’ hatred, bigotry, lies and racism.”
The letter continued: “Despite shared corporate lineage, Fox must not be permitted to exert unfair leverage to extort increased carriage fees for Fox News, by threatening to impede carrier access to Fox Sports, and more particularly coveted carriage of the National Football League. Fox Corporation is a behemoth organization, owning a long list of major media outlets, including Fox Sports and Fox News. The latter is a uniquely destructive force. Fox News foments racism, undermines public health recovery from the pandemic, and repeatedly attacks the legitimacy of last year’s Presidential election, a propagandistic ploy that fueled the January 6, attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
Johnson then noted that the league is approximately 70 percent Black, and Fox News works against the interests of those Black players.
“The NFL, a league where nearly 70 percent of the players are Black,” Johnson wrote, “should not be complicit in helping to increase the profits of Fox News, a leading voice in condemning those same players for peaceful demonstrations against systemic racism.
“We are all familiar with the depths of manipulation and polarizing tone Fox News is willing to espouse. It remains to be seen whether the NFL will act to safeguard its players and fans from further exploitation, by prohibiting the media conglomerate from unduly capitalizing on the largesse of its corporate affiliations, and utilizing the enrichment to destabilize our democracy.”
Johnson ends the letter, saying, “We hope to begin an immediate dialogue with you and any other NFL leadership to elaborate our concerns and your response. We look forward to hearing from you in the coming days as we move forward on this critical issue.”
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