NFL & Sponsor Trouble – Part 2

Another day, another look at the National Football League’s violence against women and children crisis:

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When the sponsors get involved, you know the NFL is in trouble

If you’ve been paying any attention to sports news for the last couple of weeks, you know that the NFL has a crisis on its hands.  A crisis of star players who have been caught committing a range of violent acts:

  • Minnesota Vikings running back Andrian Peterson has been indicted on charges of child abuse.
  • Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on surveillance video last summer hitting his then fiancé so hard she was knocked out.
  • 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence in August.

And these are just a few of the recent charges.  In the case of Rice, he was initially was suspended for just two games, but was eventually kicked off the team after a second, more explicit, video of his attack surfaced.

The problem the NFL is facing is that it seemingly does not want to discipline players any more than they have to, because, you know… winning games.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been accused of doing too little, too late, but until recently, there doesn’t seem to have been any consequences to the league for letting accused abusers play.

And it really isn’t a surprise.  After all, the NFL is the most popular show on television, and no one wants to do anything that interferes with that success, least of all the broadcast networks that carry those very profitable games.

abstatementBut today something happened that may get the league’s attention.  Anheuser-
Busch — the brewery that makes Bud Light, the most popular beer in America; the company that spends $1.2 billion on advertising as the official beer sponsor of the NFL — issued a statement that it was “not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code.”  As the sports blog Deadspin points out, the company hasn’t threatened to do anything yet; but when you get a $1.2 billion sponsor expressing unhappiness, something’s gonna give.

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A Motorcycle Ride to the United 93 Memorial on a Rainy Summer Day

This has nothing to do with the media. It’s a brief story about a ride I took on my motorcycle to the United 93 Memorial on a rainy June day back in 2004. It was written shortly after I had recovered from a fairly serious illness, and I was happy just to be back on the road. I’ve taken to posting on 9/11.

Me and my old KLRTook a short ride last Saturday. The distance wasn’t much, under 200 miles, but I went through two centuries of time, ideas, and food. Which felt really good after having been ill for the last month-and-a-half.

Headed out of Morgantown about 7:30 a.m. on I68. Stopped at Penn Alps for breakfast. Nice thing about being on insulin is that I can include a few more carbs in my diet these days. Pancakes, yum! (Penn Alps, if you don’t know, runs a great Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast buffet on weekends that is well worth riding to. Just outside of Grantsville, MD.)

Then off on the real purpose of the trip. Up US 219 toward the Flight 93 Sept. 11 memorial. The ride up north on 219 is beautiful; I’ve ridden it before. I always like when you come around the bend and see the turbines for the wind farm. Some people see them as an eye sore; for me they’re a potential energy solution and a dramatic sight. Chalk one up for industrial can be beautiful.

Continue on up to Berlin, PA, where I take off on PA 160 into Pennsylvania Dutch country. I start seeing hex signs painted on bright red barns, or even hung as a wooden sign. Not quite cool enough to put on my electric vest, but certainly not warm. Then it’s heading back west on a county/state road of indeterminate designation.

Now I’m into even more “old country” country. There’s a horse-and-buggy caution sign. Off to the left there’s a big farmstead with long dark-colored dresses hanging from the line, drying in the air. They may not stay dry, based on what the clouds look like.

The irony of this ride hits pretty hard. I’m on my way to a memorial of the violence and hatred of the first shot of the 21st century world war, and I’m traveling through country that is taking me further and further back into the pacifist world of the 19th century Amish and Mennonites.

A turn or two more, following the map from the National Parks web site, and I’m on a badly scared, narrow road that is no wider and not in as good of shape as the local rail trail. (Reminds me why I like my KLR!)

It’s only here that I see the first sign for the memorial. No one can accuse the locals of playing up the nearby memorial. Perhaps more flags and patriotic lawn ornaments than usual, but no strident statements. And then the memorial is off a half-mile ahead.

The crash site is to the south, surrounded by chain-link fencing. No one but families of the victims are allowed in that area. Off a small parking area is the temporary memorial, in place until the National Park Service can build the permanent site. There’s a 40-foot long chain-link wall where people have posted remembrences, plaques on the ground ranging from hand-painted signs on sandstone, to an elaborately etched sign on granite from a motorcycle group. The granite memorial is surrounded by motorcycle images.

The messages are mostly lonely or affirming. Statements of loss, statements of praise for the heroism of the passengers and crew. But not statements of hatred. It reminds me in many ways of the Storm King Mountain firefighter memorial. Not the formal one in Glenwood Springs, but the individual ones out on the mountain where more than a dozen wildland firefighters died several years ago.

It’s time to head home. When I go to join up with US 30, it’s starting to spit rain, so I pull out the rain gloves, button down the jacket, and prepare for heading home. It rains almost the whole way back PA 281, but I stay mostly dry in my Darien. The only problem is the collar of my too-big jacket won’t close far enough, and water dribbles down inside. It reminds me that riding in the rain, if it isn’t coming down too hard, can be almost pleasant, isolated away inside a nylon and fiberglass cocoon.

I’m home before 1 p.m.. I’ve ridden less than 200 miles. But I’ve ridden through a couple of centuries of people’s thoughts, actions, and food. And I’m finally back on the bike.

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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And we’re back!

283349_10101119818062679_125735451_nAfter a busy summer with only an occasional post, the Living in a Media World blog is back – Now in it’s 11th year (Yup, started back in March of 2004!)

If you aren’t already, please follow us on Twitter (@ralphehanson) for daily updates on media, motorcycles, and other amusing things that start with M.  You can also join the conversation of media literacy students and faculty using the hashtag #liamw.

Finally, I have a Tumblr ( with interesting video, art, comics (not that comic aren’t art), animation, photos, and the like.  If you have suggestions for things to post there, don’t hesitate to contact me!



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Getting Old

Years ago when I got my first job as an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University, Jack Sisco, the gruff, old director of the program looked at me and said:

“It’s bad enough when the incoming freshmen could be your children, but when you get to the point that the new assistant professors could be your children, you know you’re getting old.”

Today I had our new assistant professor who will be teaching video checking in, and I got to meet his lovely wife and new daughter. Holding the little girl was a man my age – her grandfather. I checked, and Grandpa and I were the same age.

And so, I came to the realization that I have just hired a new assistant professor who could be my own child. I’m officially old.

I’m off to drink my Metamucil.

And welcome Jacob Rosdail and family, we’re glad to have you here!


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Dealing Globally With Free Speech

I saw a fascinating series of Tweets this morning about the conflict between public safety, ethnic violence/civil wars, and free speech around the world – especially in Turkey and MENA (Middle East/North Africa).  I’m not able to come up with a good link to send you to to better understand the issues going on here, but here is a sampling of the Tweets I read this morning from Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Tweets from Zeynep Tufekci

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Creativity, Tastelessness, and Grabbing the Advertising Audience

In advertising, a tension often exists between creativity and salesmanship.  An ad may do a great job of grabbing people’s attention and generating talk, but if the ad doesn’t have a solid sales message, consumers will not remember the product or give serious thought to buying it. Advertisers also have to be continually asking themselves, “Does this ad help build the value of our brand?”

There have been a number of ads that have done a great job of grabbing the public’s attention.  But have they done a good job of promoting the product?  Have they build the value of the brand?

Consider Anheuser-Busch back in 2009. Their brand Bud Light (the most popular beer in the United States) was launching its Bud Light Lime beer in cans. (Previously it had only been available in bottles.)  Anheuser-Busch promoted the launch with an online ad that had people talking about “getting it in the can” — as in a suburban housewife confessing, “I never thought I’d enjoy getting it in the can as much as I do.” The crude sex joke attracted a lot of talk and attention from the advertising press. But it’s not clear what the message did to promote the brand or increase sales.

American Apparel has long been known for producing explicit ads for it’s line of young adult clothing that have featured nudity and provocative poses.  One recent campaign promoted their knitwear, bodysuits, and stockings  with poses that made women appear “vulnerable and overtly sexual,” according to Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority.  American Apparel defended their ads, saying they had tried to create “authentic, honest and memorable images relevant to their customer base.”  There can be no question that American Apparel has been successful with its shock-style ads.  The problem comes in figuring out what the company can do next to grab attention.

American Apparel ad that was banned in Britain

Irish brewer Guinness, on the other hand, has been successful in grabbing attention, generating talk, and building it’s brand image with an ad that features a group of men playing wheelchair basketball in a gym.  As the ad comes to an end, all but one of the men stand up and then join their one wheelchair-bound friend in a bar for a round of Guinness.  The ad has all the standard elements of a beer ad – guys playing sports and then going out to drink beer together afterwards. But it ads the unexpected twist that gives it a huge dose of heart.

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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“Control Room” documentary on Al Jazeera’s Coverage of War With Iraq

Broadcast via satellite from the small Arab country of Qatar since 1997, Al Jazeera has carried interviews with everyone from Osama bin Laden to Colin Powell and has been criticized for doing so by both the United States and Arab countries. During the current war in Iraq, Al Jazeera came to worldwide attention, presenting an Arab point of view to the fighting between the United States and Iraq. It has a regular audience of 40 million, which dwarfs CNN or Fox in scope.

Although some observers accuse Al Jazeera of being a pro-Arab propaganda channel, others have described it as the CNN of the Arab world. Perhaps neither label is completely fair or completely accurate. It would seem instead that Al Jazeera is committed to presenting an Arab view of the world. That is, it works at telling the news accurately, but it tells it from a clear point of view.

This documentary, Control Room, was made in 2004 during the height of our war with Iraq.

Here is an online copy of the film.  It is also available through Netflix.

As you watch it, you will likely see things during it that offend you.  You are not watching this to be given “the truth” about any thing.  You are watching it to see how Al Jazeera presented the war to a very large part of the world.  It’s vital that we get a look at how other media portray news that is important to us.

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