On the surface, it’s obvious why the NFL has chosen to do business with China. If the NFL ever can establish a foothold in the most populous nation on the planet, a billion-dollar enterprise will move much more quickly toward becoming a trillion-dollar behemoth.
But the “why China?” question goes deeper than profits. China continues to be a communist regime, with all the hallmarks of an authoritarian regime, with an ongoing assault on basic human rights.
The NFL nevertheless has been openly flirting with China for several years now, courting a burgeoning middle class in the 1.38-billion-person nation, trying to stage games there, and relishing the playing of European games in the early afternoon — which in turn puts those games on TV live in China in prime time.
Aiding the NFL’s China agenda will be an indoor football league backed by Ron Jaworski and Dick Vermeil, which is scheduled to finally launch its first season on October 1.
The only opposition to playing in China from within the NFL arises from not the oppressive political climate but from the amount of time it takes to get there. Not once has any team or league executive publicly asked whether doing business with China meshes with the principles for which the league stands.
Externally, the question rarely if ever gets asked. (The only item I could find online raising the issue came earlier this year from Ty Schalter of TheComeback.com.) I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t even thought about it until someone who works within the broader pro football machine asked me the question earlier today: Why China?
Again, the easy answer is money. The tougher questions apparently aren’t being posed directly to the NFL, and possibly never will be.