Update: After admitting that it was a mistake in the first place, the ad discussed in this post has been taken down by the NFL. Way to go blogosphere! More details at the end of this post.
Remember when Arian Foster lambasted fantasy football players for not caring about him as a person, but simply having interest in his health because of his expected role in their fictional football lineups?
Well I wonder what Foster thinks about NFL.com using a picture of an injured, distressed Jamaal Charles to promote their fantasy football game.
Here is the picture (hat tip to #1 Texans fan Steph Stradley for tweeting it out):
This is what Steph said about the picture being used:
@NFL this Jamaal Charles ad for your fantasy football site is creepy, awful, dehumanizing http://screencast.com/t/77FUWvAkZ #Chiefs #NFL #Meat
And I agree that it is creepy to see an image of a clearly distraught Jamaal Charles, moments after his season ended, with the comparatively trivial question “Injury ruined your fantasy season?” right there next to it. That’s quite a juxtaposition.
Is it dehumanizing though? Arian Foster would certainly think so. And while I disagreed with Foster’s general argument as it related to him and the interest in his balky hamstring, I do think this usage of Charles’ is on another level completely and that it is dehumanizing.
It also seems highly hypocritical. For a league that speaks often about taking injuries seriously, how are we supposed to reconcile trivializing a major injury by exploiting it to generate fantasy football signups? I’m not sure I can quite articulate what I think is wrong about this…but I just know this struck me as wrong, certainly hypocritical, the minute I saw it.
What do you think? Are Steph and I taking this too seriously, or is the NFL displaying serious tone-deafness in its choice to use this image of an injured Charles in such a way?
I’ll tell you this much: As also pointed out by Steph Stradley, I’m sure Chris Johnson is none to pleased to see his own image being used to promote the NFL fantasy platform, though at least in his case it’s about underperformance rather than a season-ending injury.
Update: As I often do, I emailed this article to a few sports writers I respect to get their opinion and gauge whether I was being hypercritical of the NFL in this case. I was emboldened when the first response back was from Robert Littal of Black Sports Online, who always has a fair, level-headed take on sports issues, and here was his response:
“I just wrote about it. Saw the pic about 30 mins ago. I feel bad for Charles. Makes him seem like a piece of meat.”
And indeed Rob did write about it, independently expressing the same thoughts and feelings I did about 10 minutes prior to me publishing this. Great minds think alike, right?
Update: And here is Andrew Sharp of SBNation expressing much the same opinion as well. Sharp also includes the screenshot of a rather scathing tweet by Vikings’ punter Chris Kluwe, which shows that this is not just the blogosphere getting its collective panties in a bunch:
Update: As predicted by Jim Trotter of SI.com, looks like the NFL quickly reversed field on this one, though I have no confirmed this independently. Te ad in question was in a rotation on the NFL.com front page. It’s not there when I just checked, so let’s hope that means it was remove permanently. If so, smart move, but a dumb decision to put it up there in the first place.