The National Football League — the unchallenged #1 sport in the United States — isn’t doing nearly enough to take on climate change, the #1 existential crisis facing the world today.
That changes, right here, right now, because the NFL finally has begun to realize it has a “climate ambition” problem.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has agreed to hand over his office to GreenSportsBlog for one day — just one — so we can implement a climate policy with teeth for its 32 teams, the NFL Draft, and its crown jewel, the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl LV was a dud — unless you are a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, a Tom Brady supporter and/or bet big money on the Bucs, who thrashed the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9. Still, 96 million people tuned in to all or part of the CBS broadcast in the U.S., with millions more watching overseas.
GreenSportsBlog is sadly confident that only a microscopically tiny handful of those viewers were aware of the greening efforts surrounding Super Bowl LV — which, thanks to COVID-19, included a Virtual Green Team created and managed by the local host committee. In fact, the Super Bowl has been carbon neutral for more than 15 years but, aside from those in the Green-Sports world, do more than 15 people know about that fact?
Maybe, but just barely.
This lack of awareness — which comes from a lack of promotion from arguably the most media-savvy league in the world and its media partners — is a symptom of a bigger problem: The NFL plays “small ball” when it comes to climate change. The same thing goes for the Super Bowl.
That is why GreenSportsBlog is honored to take the Commissioner’s baton from Roger Goodell for this one day to enact a high-impact, high-profile climate policy befitting the behemoth that is the NFL. All 32 teams and all of the league’s media partners (CBS, Fox, ESPN, NBC, and Amazon) must enact these “Executive Orders”. And they cannot be rescinded once Goodell takes his job back tomorrow, nor can any future Commissioner order a rollback.
So, without further ado, here is the text of GreenSportsBlog’s climate change-themed inaugural and farewell address as NFL Commissioner.
The NFL is America’s Game. Fans are drawn to us 365 days a year.
That is no exaggeration. From our regular season kick off in September to the Super Bowl in February, to the Draft in April, to training camp in August, NFL fans never take a day off.
We are humbled by this level of support and are awed by the influence our game has. With that influence comes a tremendous responsibility to be a force for good beyond being a compelling source of entertainment.
As you know, sometimes, we haven’t lived up to that responsibility. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, a progressive and fatal brain disease associated with repeated concussions, is one example. If we didn’t start to address it, CTE could have become an existential issue for the league. We have a long way to go but we have started to make some progress.
The league is much further behind when it comes to climate change.
And that has to change because of the urgency of the climate crisis.
According to the 2018 U.N. IPCC report, the world has to decarbonize by roughly 45 percent by 2030 to avoid the most calamitous impacts of climate change. It is now 2021 and the world hasn’t made any progress towards that goal.
So, we are going all out to lead a #ClimateComeback, starting right now. Here’s how:
1ST DOWN: NET ZERO BY 2040, 10 YEARS AHEAD OF PARIS AGREEMENT PACE
The NFL is setting a massive goal: To be Net Zero on carbon emissions across all aspects of our operations, including fan travel, by 2040. This means we are committing to a pace that’s 10 years ahead of the targets set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
All 32 teams and the league office must develop and adhere to environmental operating plans with decarbonization strategies that are more aggressive than the Paris Agreement.
The league and our teams will work with leaders in clean tech and clean energy to deliver real innovations in efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies. CDP, a respected international nonprofit that helps organizations disclose their environmental impact, will referee our carbon reduction efforts, regularly and transparently collecting and reporting on our emissions data.
Any remaining emissions will be offset through quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially beneficial projects. Half of those offset projects will be in a team’s home market; the rest can be anywhere in the world since climate change is a global issue.
2ND DOWN: PLANNING TO SPIKE TRANSPORTATION-RELATED EMISSIONS
Achieving dramatic transportation-related emissions reductions will be a particular focus for the NFL for two main reasons: 1. They are the biggest source of our clubs’ emissions and, 2. We’ve profited tremendously from the automobile and aviation industries over the decades who’ve profited from the burning of fossil fuels.
All of our stadium parking lots will be outfitted with 2,000 EV charging stations by 2026 and the charging will be free to the driver. Every car owned by the league or our clubs will be an EV by 2026; every van and truck will be 100 percent electric by 2030.
The NFL is partnering with league sponsor Amazon to launch an innovation fund to incubate low- and zero-emission aviation startups. I’m happy to announce that the league and our clubs have committed to invest a combined $100 million to the fund over the next five years. ZeroAvia, which focuses on hydrogen-electric aviation solutions, is our first grantee.
3RD DOWN: TAKING ON ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE
The NFL is well aware that the impacts of climate change are felt most harshly by those who can least adapt — the poor, people of color and other marginalized groups. Problem is that awareness of the catastrophic combined effects of environmental, racial and social injustice is relatively low.
So, the league and our clubs will collaborate with our players on environmental injustice education as well as on programs that will take on the problems on a grassroots level. And league sponsor Nike has just announced it will contribute $10 million annually for nine years to the Just Do It By 2030 environmental justice (EJ) fund for grassroots programs in each of our 30 markets. They will also use one 30 second spot during each of the next nine Super Bowls to highlight the most successful EJ initiatives.
4TH DOWN: REACHING AND ENGAGING OUR FANS
When have you heard climate change mentioned on an NFL game, in a public service announcement? You haven’t.
In addition to the Nike PSAs, every TV and radio regular season and playoffs broadcast will feature two climate change-themed PSA’s, created by Spike Lee and Martin Scorcese. Spanish language versions will be aired as well. The same will hold for the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl LVI halftime show at LA’s SoFi Stadium will become the “Concert For The Climate.” Bands and singers selected will either have songs with climate themes or be known for producing zero-emissions concerts or both.
And the NFL will conduct a contest to find the league’s Greenest Fan Base on a per capita basis. Metrics will include recycling rates, plant-based meals consumed, and more. The team that wins will earn an additional 3rd round selection at the 2022 Draft. This approach links positive climate actions on the part of fans to their teams’ prospects on the field. How cool is that?
It took us too long to let the science guide us on CTE, it’s taken far too long for us to let the science guide us on climate change.
That will no longer be the case.
Will some fans stop watching on TV? Yes. Are some owners and Roger Goodell himself annoyed at our new approach? You bet. Will that stop us? No.
We are behind in the climate change game and it is getting late — 2030 is but a two-minute warning away. That means we need to take on the existential threat of climate change now.
And you can get in the game. We welcome your climate audibles. Send your ideas to Roger Goodell as we officially hand the metaphorical commissioner’s gavel back to him.
And with that, Commissioner Goodell, you are back on the clock.
Photo at top: SoFi Stadium, the brand new home of the LA Rams and Chargers, will host Super Bowl LVI and the “Concert For Climate” at halftime (Photo credit: MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)