Watching Sports on Television Can Be Harmful To Your Health and Wallet; Athletes and Some Voices Shamelessly Act Like Shills For All Sort Of Products
I was a novice reporter, a rookie hitting the keys for a Brooklyn Daily. I came up the ranks writing sports, hardly considered one of the newspaper’s loftier departments. Other journalists were dismissive of sportswriters, suggesting that we were working in the newspaper’s toy department.
After the war, sports sold their souls to television, a fresh way to reach millions of children. In time, advertisers poured dough into the medium. The NFL for one was born!
Watching sports on television is now more harmful to viewers than ever. Early, in the late 1940s, game sponsors hawked unhealthy tobacco and alcoholic beverages. And during Super Bowls, artery-filling snacks are promoted on-air, as if they’re more important than the competing teams.
And once betting on anything involving sports became legal, commercials attempting to get viewers to gamble were identified they were added to the “sin” list.
- The one exception to the promotion of these unhealthy products occurred when tobacco commercials were banned in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. But it was not because sports or TV entities cared, it was the Federal government that made it so. Still, commercial signage in arenas and stadiums continued into the 90s.
- Perhaps the most insidious of all commercials on sports telecasts has nothing to do with food, alcoholic beverages, gambling or tobacco. It is the use of athletes hawking various products – from digital to gambling sites. Sports announcers share betting odds too before, during and after the games.
- Athletes hawking products as if they really knew about them, is not only disingenuous but harmful to sports fanatics who live and die by what their teams do and what their favorite athletes say.
- Of all the athletes and announcers who hawk products, the Manning family stands out from the other prominent ones. Seemingly, they will do a commercial for anything as long as the pay checks clear.
- One Example: “Beginning today, the Mannings will be featured in advertising, in addition to making live event and commercial appearances,” said a press release, in part, from Caesars Sportsbook, when they announced the deal last November.
- Other athletes have also shilled for the gambling industry. But with the Mannings, it’s a family affair. Network executives seemingly see nothing wrong about commercials during sports telecasts urging fans to risk their money. A September 2021 New York Times article about gambling ads during football games reported the following:
- “The dollars are starting to add up,” said John Bogusz, the Executive Vice President of Sports Sales and Marketing for CBS Sports. “The network saw a surge in advertising interest for N.F.L. broadcasts this year. Bogusz attributed “a good portion” of the growth to sports betting ads. “Overall, the volume is up among all advertisers, but that added to it as well,” he said. “I think it will continue to grow.”
- “Dan Lovinger, the Executive Vice President of Advertising Sales for NBC Sports Group, said on a conference call that the surge from sports betting operators was “reminiscent to when the fantasy category opened up,” said the article.
- It’s not just the networks that are promoting gambling. So are some regional broadcasters.
- “If you’re interested in gaming, we’re going to add extra stats, the ability to do prop bets in the game, pitch by pitch, play by play,” said Christopher Ripley, CEO of Sinclair Broadcasting Group. “You can play along and wager while you watch,” reported Legal Sports Betting in an August 2019 article.
- And a March 2022 article in the National Review said, in part, about Major League Baseball’s partnership with the gambling business: “They wanted the money, and by whoring the game to Draft Kings, Fan Duel, Caesar’s Sportsbook, and the rest, they are getting an ever bigger piece of the pie… Baseball is taking in well over $1 billion annually, and that is on the steep rise.”
- According to my eyeballs there are many more gambling commercials on sports telecasts today than yesterday. Also relatively new is that sports broadcasting talent is no longer afraid to overtly talk about gambling.
- US Bets reported in a February 2022 article that … “broadcasters, particularly (Brent) Musburger and Al Michaels, some years ago would make reference to sports betting, but only in sly ways, practically winking at their audiences while avoiding complaints from their bosses. Michaels would note that a late touchdown was “overwhelming” news to a certain segment of the viewers (those who bet the over). He even had a name for that side of his broadcasting persona, referencing himself “The Rascal.”
- A Wall Street Journal Opinion article by Daniel Lee, in February 2022, said, “If you watch sports on TV you know that ads for betting apps and websites featuring big-time sports and entertainment celebrities are ubiquitous. Betting is easy now: free first bets, quick payouts. All you need is a credit card.”
- The article went on to report, “At least some of these new online bettors will spend the rest of their lives battling the simple reality that gambling mostly means losing. One out of two people struggling with a gambling problem contemplates suicide,” Harry Levant, who is a recovered gambling addict working with the group, Stop Predatory Gambling, told the AP. “One out of five will attempt suicide. I am one of those, one out of five.”
- And a June 2022 ESPN article said, “Barkley became a brand ambassador and spokesperson for sportsbook operator Fan Duel in 2020 and regularly gives out picks on “Inside the NBA” as the league has embraced the expanding sports betting market in the United States,” even though Barkley says in the same article that there’s too much sports betting taking place.
- Of course, the leagues, networks and some team owners also support the gaming industry in its efforts to entice at-risk viewers to risk money that could be used for more productive uses like rent, food and educational purposes. I guess the sports, advertising, TV businesses and athletes and broadcasters feel that those “bet responsible” tag lines on gambling commercials absolves them from any harm that might happen to viewers enticed by the commercials.
- During the 2022 NFL and MLB seasons, commercials telling viewers that they can win some of Terry Bradshaw’s and Big Papi’s (David Ortiz ) money without placing a bet was revived by FOX on it sports telecasts. A skeptic might think that those promotions might be a way to get people hooked on gambling. But whether you agree with that or not gambling from the comfort of your arm chair is now a staple of sports programming. (On November 4, “an arbitrator ruled that Fox Corp has the option to buy a stake in sports-betting operator FanDuel Group…,” reported the Wall Street Journal in its November 5-6 edition. So maybe that skeptic is correct.)
- And with the football playoffs to begin in mid-January, followed by the Super Bowl on February 12, the TV bookies might already be spending their assured profits before the first snap of a playoff game. In fact, I’d be willing to wager a few shekels that betting on the Super Bowl will set a new record as more bet from home commercials have become a staple of sports programming.
- A Politico article published on February 13, 2022, the day of the last Super Bowl said, “According to the Wall Street Journal, the National Problem Gambling helpline (1-800-522-4700) received an average of more than 22,500 calls a month in 2021, up from a monthly average of 14,800 the year before. Problem gamblers carry an average of $55,000 in debt and more than 20 percent end up filing for bankruptcy.” And that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg.