Watching sports on TV can be bad for your health and wallet; Athletes and some voices shamelessly trade like shills for all kinds of products
I was an inexperienced reporter, a novice typing for a Brooklyn Daily. I came rise in the ranks of sportswriters, which are hardly considered one of the newspaper’s more elevated departments. Other journalists were dismissive of sportswriters, implying that we worked in the newspaper’s toy section.
After the war, sport sold its soul to television, giving it visibility to reach millions of children. Over time, advertisers poured dough into the medium. The NFL for One was born!
Watching sports on TV is more harmful than ever to viewers today. In the early late 1940s, game sponsors offered unhealthy tobacco and alcoholic beverages. And during the Super Bowls, artery-filling snacks are seasoned on air as if they matter more than the competing teams.
And once betting on anything sports-related became legal, commercials that tried to get viewers to gamble were identified and put on the “sins” list.
- The only exception to advertising for these unhealthy products occurred when President Richard Nixon banned tobacco advertising in 1970. But it wasn’t because sports or television cared, it was the federal government that did it. But commercial signage in arenas and stadiums continued into the 1990s.
- Perhaps the most insidious of all sports commercials has nothing to do with food, alcohol, gambling or tobacco. It’s the use of athletes peddling various products – from digital to gambling sites. Sports announcers also share betting odds before, during and after games.
- Athletes who sell products as if they really know about it is not only disingenuous, it is also detrimental to sports fanatics who live and die by what their teams do and what their favorite athletes say.
- Of all the athletes and speakers selling products, the Manning family stands out from the rest of the celebrities. Apparently they do a commercial for everything as long as the paychecks are cashed.
- For example, “Starting today, the Mannings will be featured in advertising in addition to live events and commercial appearances,” read a partial press release from Caesars Sportsbook when they announced the deal last November.
- Other athletes have also championed the gambling industry. But with the Mannings, it’s a family affair. Network executives don’t seem to see anything wrong with commercials during sports broadcasts that urge fans to risk their money. A September 2021 New York Times article on gambling advertising during soccer games reported the following:
- “The dollars are starting to add up,” said John Bogusz, executive vice president of sports sales and marketing at CBS Sports. “The network has seen an increase in advertising interest in NFL shows this year. Bogusz attributed “a good chunk” of the growth to sports betting ads. “Overall, volume is up across all advertisers, but that helped, too,” he said. “I think it will continue to grow.”
- “Dan Lovinger, executive vice president of advertising sales for NBC Sports Group, said on a conference call that the rise in sportsbooks “is reminiscent of the opening up of the fantasy category,” the article reads.
- It’s not just the networks that encourage gambling. So are some regional stations.
- “If you’re interested in gaming, we will be adding additional stats, the ability to place in-game prop bets, court by court, game by game,” said Christopher Ripley, CEO of Sinclair Broadcasting Group. “You can play and bet while you watch,” Legal Sports Betting reported in an August 2019 article.
- And a March 2022 article in the National Review said in part of Major League Baseball’s partnership with the gaming business, “They wanted the money, and by whoring the game to Draft Kings, Fan Duel, Caesar’s Sportsbook and the rest, they’re getting an ever-larger slice of the pie… Baseball is taking annually.” well over $1 billion, and that’s a steep increase.”
- According to my eyeballs, there is a lot more gambling advertising on sports TV shows today than there was yesterday. Also relatively new is that sports broadcasting talent is no longer afraid to speak openly about gambling.
- US bets reported in a February 2022 article that … “Broadcasters, notably (Brent) Musburger and Al Michaels, made reference to sports betting a few years ago, but only in a sly way, practically winking at their audience and avoiding complaints from their bosses. Michaels would note that a late touchdown was “overwhelming” news for a certain segment of the audience (those who bet the over). He even had a name for that side of his broadcast personality, referring to himself as “The Rascal.”
- A Wall Street Journal A February 2022 opinion piece by Daniel Lee states: “If you watch sports on TV, you know that ads for betting apps and websites featuring big sports and entertainment stars are ubiquitous. Betting is now easy: free first bets, fast payouts. All you need is a credit card.”
- The article went on to say, “Some of these new online bettors, at least, will spend the rest of their lives battling the simple reality that gambling mostly means losing. One in two people struggling with a gambling problem is contemplating suicide,” Harry Levant, a recovered gambling addict who works with the group Stop Predatory Gambling, told AP. “One in five attempts suicide. I’m one of them, one of five.”
- And a June 2022 ESPN article said, “Barkley became a brand ambassador and spokesperson for sportsbook Fan Duel in 2020, and regularly provides tips on ‘Inside the NBA’ as the league has embraced the expanding sportsbook market in the United States,” though Barkley in the same article says there is too much sports betting going on.
- Of course, the leagues, networks, and some team owners also support the gaming industry in its efforts to entice vulnerable viewers to risk money that could be used for more productive purposes like rent, food, and education. I think the sports, advertising, television companies and athletes and broadcasters think that these betting slogans in gambling commercials absolve them from any harm that might happen to viewers who are attracted by the commercials.
- During the 2022 NFL and MLB season, commercials telling viewers they could win a cut of Terry Bradshaw and Big Papi (David Ortiz) money without placing a bet were revived by FOX on its sports broadcasts . A skeptic might think that these promotions could be a way to get people excited about gambling. But whether you agree with it or not, playing from the comfort of your armchair is now a regular part of the sports program. (On Nov. 4, “an arbitrator ruled that Fox Corp has the option to buy a stake in sportsbook FanDuel Group…” reported the Wall Street Journal in its Nov. 5-6 issue. So maybe this skeptic is right .)
- And with the football playoffs starting in mid-January, followed by the Super Bowl on February 12th, TV bookmakers could be spending their promised winnings before the first snap of a playoff game. In fact, I’d be willing to bet a few shekels on Super Bowl betting setting a new record as more betting has moved from home promotion to a regular part 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 per month in 2021, up from a monthly average of 14,800 a year earlier. Problem gamblers have 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.