Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mike Carey and the Tipping Point

Good Call
So the news today is the simple and profound revelation that Mike Carey, one of the NFL's most prominent referees and the first African-American to lead a crew at the Super Bowl, declined to officiate the Washington franchise's games since 2006 because of his refusal to be part of their derogatory name.

Carey took his stance privately, and was only outed through an act of journalism, but now that the cat is out of the bag, he's speaking eloquently about his stance, and how even if such a move limited him professionally, treating people with respect was more important. He will now be trolled by an increasingly unhinged and diminishing group of people who feel that the country is going to hell in a handbasket over  its growing uneasiness about calling a football team an absurd and obvious slur. (A small aside: do you know anyone who owns a handbasket? I think my mother in law has them, but I think my mother in law has everything.)

Before we get into the actual working points from this, two small notes. First, that Carey's stance certainly didn't keep him from missing many playoff games. (Waits for rim shot.) Secondly, we all now know the name of a second NFL ref, and Ed Hochuli is really going to have to step up his game to keep up the popularity. Pump some more iron, Ed.

And no matter where you are on this matter -- which is to say if you have already stopped using the term , or will stop using it later, will say that you as well never liked or understood why the name was tolerated, and will not talk about your slow evolution to decent human behavior -- this should be seen by any observer of the obvious as the absolute end game for the name. When the personnel for the league are refusing to work games, and the league isn't terminating them for such a stance, that already tells you that there is sympathy for the point, right? And that if you a Daniel Snyder apologist, that the league is already well on its way to penalizing the team for the name?

Here's what happens next, in case you aren't doing the math: Carey won't be the last person to step away from the PR train wreck. In fact, he's going to inspire others -- many others -- who will also feel that they don't want to endorse the slur. And the future folks won't be nearly so private or discreet about it.

Next, those that remain will be asked why they are OK with the slur. Advertisers will come under increasing fire for supporting the team. Other broadcasters will start to omit the name, along with media. Maybe some outlets will chose to limit coverage, or keep them off prime time television. Minnesota's already taking fire from the caretakers of their temporary yard (the University of Minnesota) about their likely signage and name use for an upcoming home game. Defenders of the indefensible status quo will continue to sound increasingly old, out of touch, and out of step. It's hard to imagine Mike Ditka's "Brownskins" remark sounded good to even Snyder.

This already costs the franchise, and the league, money. That money is theoretical, in that it's the opportunity cost from diminished sales, especially to younger audiences, who are fast to reject racist stuff And it's going to start costing a lot more.

The NFL will tolerate many, many things. Brain injuries, and generations of cover-up about brain injuries. A likely huge amount of PED usage. Scab refs. Franchises holding cities hostage. The dilution of home games to foster international money grabs. PR disasters from payola music events and coddling men who assault women. Performance and injury issues arising from spreading the schedule all over the week, and a sliding scale of what is and is not a penalty, based on the injury and acting skills of the offended party.

But there's one thing that it will not now, and has not ever, tolerated.

And that's losing money.

And the bleed is about to get real messy.

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