This is how dumb the NFL is

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is probably relieved today, since — let’s face it — he wanted no part of running a Philadelphia Eagles car next week at Pocono Raceway.

The diehard Washington Redskins fan already tried to plead his case several months ago to boss Rick Hendrick, who basically told him to get over it. After all, major Hendrick Motorsports sponsor Axalta had an important teachers initiative to promote — and this is how it chose to do so.

But now, thanks to a stupid NFL provision, the paint scheme won’t run at all. It’s the kind of policy corporate lawyers come up with just because they’re bored and want to justify their high salaries.

The NFL’s official reasoning, per the Eagles: There rules “states that club marks cannot be used in connection with the promotion or presentation of another sport.”

That seems like a stretch on the NFL’s part. It’s not like the Pocono race is called the “Philadelphia Eagles 400” or something. The logo was going to be on one race car for one race on a broadcast televised by NFL partner FOX Sports — during a time of year when the NFL isn’t even on TV!

The horror!

It’s hilariously sad that some dork in the NFL corporate office actually got upset enough about this to nix the entire thing.

The Eagles are going to be on the most popular NASCAR driver’s car in order to promote teachers who concentrate on STEM education? Send them a cease and desist immediately!

“Without doubt, we are deeply disappointed that the Axalta All-Pro Teachers car will not run,” a statement from Axalta said. “As a primary sponsor of Dale Earnhardt Jr., we were thrilled about plans for him to drive a car that gave the Axalta All-Pro Teachers program and STEM education more visibility by promoting the program on the track.”

The Eagles also said they were bummed.

“Having been reminded of the NFL’s policy, we understand and respect their point of view,” the team said. “While we are disappointed that we will not have the opportunity to increase the visibility of the Axalta All-Pro Teachers program through the Pocono 400 this year, we remain committed to supporting STEM curriculum and the educators who inspire our youth through our relationship with Axalta.”

So lame. The NFL is on top right now, so apparently officials feel they don’t need any additional publicity. But that won’t last forever, and disrespecting $4 billion companies like Axalta might make the journey much more painful on the way down.

UPDATE: Here’s what Earnhardt had to say about the NFL’s decision.

“I was disappointed because the opportunity to honor the teachers was going to be pretty cool learning about that connection that the Eagles have with that was going to be col.  We are still going to have some teachers at the race and some of the Eagles guys are going to come out.  Everything is kind of as is, except for the car.

“I do like the Axalta car we are going to run.  It’s going to look good out there and it’s really just unfortunate for Axalta and a good cross over promotion.  That would be pretty cool even though obviously, we joked around being Redskins fan and all that.  But it was going to be a pretty fun promotion and we are still going to try to maximize what opportunity we can with it.”


9 Replies to “This is how dumb the NFL is”

  1. The title said it all. Can’t stand the NFL the last few years. Meanwhile, the Ravens and Orioles do joint promotions together all the time, so clearly they pick and choose when to apply the rule. Probably has something to do with NASCAR being a main TV competitor on Sundays.

  2. Does this mean someone has to destroy a bunch of T-Shirts, 1/64th cars etc. without being allowed to sell that stuff?

  3. A far cry from the days when JGR would run a different NFL team helmet scheme on the driver’s helmet each week.

  4. Given that the NFL has cross promoted previously, I’m going out on a limb and invoking something I haven’t before.

    This might be a racial issue, in the way NASCAR is perceived, the market of the NFL and the tensions of various issues between the assumed audience of NASCAR (inbred white hillbilly racists who all desperately cling to guns and Confederate flags) and NFL (racial diversity with an acceleration hyperfocus on social issues).

    You have an entirely opposing sport, during an offseason, with all of zero competition, honoring teachers, honoring innovation and technology. It’s quite literally one of the most noble things that can be done, especially seeing as how you need a STEM degree to work on NASCAR cars these days.

    Previously approved, you have two sports, in the same city none the less, competing in fall directly against each other both on TV and literally the same demographic/audience by geography and that’s cool.

    In fact, there is a little sticker on the Pens helmets *right now*. It’s a licensed logo approved by the NFL to honor the Steelers owner, Dan Rooney.

  5. The NFL has always been very careful to protect their image and likeness in the most unusual and draconian of ways.

    This is the sporting organization that fought organizations who used the term “S***r B**l party” to promote a gathering to watch the big end-of-season game. And, supposedly, when organizations and companies started referring to it as the “Big Game” instead, they considered applying for a trademark for THAT too.

    And the organization that, when a player legally changed his name early in the year, forbade said player from displaying his “new” name on a jersey because they already had jerseys with his old name to sell. Sorry, Chad. Wait until next year.

    Or when Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams requested permission to wear pink cleats to honor women in his family who have fought breast cancer, they shot him down. Now, the NFL does require teams to wear pink accessories in October, as part of their “A Crucial Catch” campaign, but they couldn’t allow a player to wear them all year long. (And other players have been fined/threatened with suspensions for such wardrobe “violations,” like when Brandon Marshall wore green cleats for mental-health awareness.)

    Uniform rules also mandated a couple years ago that players wore the same helmet all year. The NFL asks teams to bring out a throwback look for a game or two, but the helmet rule would invalidate some retro color schemes. (For instance, the Patriots wear a blue or white jersey with a silver helmet bearing the “Flying Elvis” logo. The retro uniform is a red jersey with a white helmet that bears “Pat Patriot” on the side. But they can’t even wrap the helmets, so the silver helmet would clash.) I believe they’re changing that this year so the retro schemes can return for those teams.

    It’s not just players, either: coaches are required by the uniform contract to wear branded team apparel on the sidelines. Years ago, coach Jack Del Rio tried to get Reebok to make him a suit that would satisfy the requirement for team apparel (the NFL finally relented and allowed a coach to wear a suit for two games a year). Supposedly, fellow suit advocate Bill Belichick’s wardrobe is a defiance of this mandate: word is that he picked out the ugliest gray hoodie from the catalog, tore half the sleeves off because “my arms are short” and wore THAT as a subtle reminder that coaches aren’t supposed to be fashion models.

    TLDR: The uniform and team logos are sacred except when the NFL says they aren’t, and it’s only okay if the NFL is getting their cut.

    Long-time fans will remember back in 1996, Joe Gibbs Racing painted Bobby Labonte’s #18 in Redskins colors, as a tribute to Gibbs’ induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I don’t believe there were any Redskins logos on the car, though. And I want to say there have been other NFL-related liveries on cars besides Coach Gibbs’. Though maybe they didn’t include the team logo. Apparently that’s a big no-no.

  6. Honestly I can’t figure out why the NFL sells out games like it does. It’s basically a glorified gouge fest in terms of fans’ wallets and league’s greed. Not to mention there’s the stupid kneelers from last year.

  7. A few years ago there was an entrant in the Indy 500 that wanted to include a Colts logo and was denied for the same reason. The NFL may not have always had such a restriction but they have for several years. Whether or not it’s justified is another question but it has been in place.

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