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Press Release for Thursday, September 18, 2014

UNF Survey Finds Domestic Violence Issue Possible Red Zone Fumble for NFL

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Director
Department of Public Relations
(904) 620-2102

Twice as many women as compared to men are of the strong opinion that Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back, should never play in the NFL again, according to a new survey conducted by Drs. Kristi Sweeney and Elizabeth Gregg, both assistant professors in the Department of Leadership, School Counseling and Sport Management at the University of North Florida.

The NFL Players Association has prepared, and subsequently filed, an appeal of Rice’s indefinite suspension, and corporate sponsors have joined the swelling crowd of critics. In an attempt to understand the gravity player-inflicted violence issues pose to the league, Sweeney and Gregg, both sport management faculty, asked NFL fans their thoughts on Rice’s future and on the potential financial threats it poses to the league and its corporate sponsors.

Of the 250 respondents to an online survey, 90 percent considered themselves fans of the NFL, with nearly 60 percent being fans of the league for 20 or more years. Female fans accounted for 68 percent of responses, while 62 percent of total respondents had combined household incomes of $75,000 or more.

The majority of fans surveyed strongly agreed that the NFL has a domestic violence problem and that the league should be concerned about losing its female fan base. Fifty-two percent of fans reported that NFL corporate sponsors should also be concerned about losing their footing with female consumers.

While it’s widely documented that women comprise 45 percent of the NFL’s fan base, Sweeney and Gregg found significant differences among men and women and their intentions to attend more than one game this season. Just 23 percent of women surveyed plan on attending two or more regular season games.

This finding suggests there remains substantial room for growth in the female market. According to Sweeney, lead author of the study, it should be troubling to the NFL and its corporate partners that 25 percent of women stated the handling of the events surrounding the Rice incident would discourage them from not only attending NFL games but also from the consumption of league-related media content.

“These findings imply the current state of the league has potential to negatively influence female consumers. If this is true and the NFL wants to protect and grow its female fan base, they should strongly consider its perspective on the league’s domestic violence problem,” she said.

Perception is often reality. According to Navigate Research, the NFL’s popularity is near market saturation at 72 percent of adult men. “Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, and the league should be mindful of the integral role women play in the future growth of the NFL both financially and culturally,” stated Gregg.

“Women control 80 percent of consumer spending and have substantial influence on spending on products that are thought to be traditionally masculine, including sport products,” said Sweeney. “The female consumer base is both a dynamic and economic force on the NFL in today’s market, and recent events seemingly have changed the game. The NFL can’t afford to not listen to them.”

The vast majority of women surveyed—56 percent—strongly agreed that Rice should never play again in the NFL. Sweeney suggested this finding might reinforce the league to strongly consider a zero-tolerance policy as previously suggested by 16 female U.S. Senators.

“Female fans have thrown their challenge flag and it isn’t pink. The league, in its current state, must appeal to women through policy and action. They might also consider rolling out purple jerseys, in addition to pink this October, in support of domestic violence awareness,” she said.

UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.