American Football - New Immigrants

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Football - Outreach To New Immigrants.

The Jacksonville Jaguars invited 1,000 refugees to their NFL playoff opening game in January 2018. While the NFL is increasing the percentage of its advertising dollars spent on the Hispanic population, the league appears to have done little else in terms of outreach to the US refugee population. During the 2018 Super Bowl, however, a special community team was established to comfort refugees who may fear the intense military-style security measures associated with the event. After an extensive search, information on the efforts of high school, college, or community-based football leagues to promote the game to refugees proved elusive.


A search of the NFL website, sports sources such as ESPN, and news outlets unearthed few examples of professional football teams reaching out to the refugee population. Three examples of such efforts have been outlined below. I also searched advertising databases, such as WARC and Ads of the World, with the hope of finding commercials or ad spots targeting the immigrant populations, but that strategy proved unsuccessful. Finding few references to professional football, I expanded my search to encompass other levels of American football organizations, such as high school, college, or community-based teams. However, I found no references to such teams promoting the game or otherwise reaching out to the immigrant population. There were a few references to football players who have immigrant parents or who are immigrants themselves, but no information regarding promotional or welcoming efforts surfaced during my research.


Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, celebrated his team's long-awaited return to the NFL playoffs in January 2018 by inviting 1000 local refugees to a game. He invited 500 refugees and 500 Puerto Ricans, displaced by hurricanes Maria and Irma. Each person received a free ticket, along with food, drink vouchers, souvenirs, and transportation for the opening round game. The promotion was coordinated by the Jaguars Foundation, which teamed up with "the Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida, the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Latino Leadership Inc., to find displaced peoples who wanted to attend the game."


The 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, MN engaged a special team to help foreign refugees feel comfortable during the game, which requires intense security measures that could be frightening to those who have fled war-torn regions of the world. The Humvees, combat gear, and military aircraft used to ensure security during the game may echo all-too-familiar scenes for refugees fearing deportation or terrorism. The Super Bowl's Joint Information Center community specialists who are working to ease the potential concerns of refugees use numerous forms of media, including television, radio, and social media, to reach members of the immigrant community. Social media posts are sent out in numerous languages, while weekly radio messages are broadcast in Spanish, Hmong, and Somali. The messages are tailored to each population with the understanding that some refugees will see police officers as protection from terrorism, while others may fear deportation.


While a bit dated (2015), a Forbes article discusses the NFL's focus on Hispanic marketing, which includes a focus on immigrants. In 2014, the NFL spent $243.8 million on Hispanic media, especially television. The article notes particular outreach to immigrants via web spots and advertising through Spanish language networks, such as Univision. The NFL's Manager of Hispanic Marketing, Edgar Corona, focuses on engaging the league's Hispanic fan base, which has grown from 5.5% in 2004 to 8.7% in 2015. In 2016, 10% of Super Bowl viewers were Hispanic, up 28% over five years.


In conclusion, the NLF has increased its marketing to the US Hispanic population, including refugees, but it has done little else to promote the game to the immigrant population. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the only professional team found to have done anything inviting or welcoming to refugees. However, the organizers of the 2018 Super Bowl reached out to offer comfort and support to refugees who might otherwise have experienced negative or fearful emotions in response to the security measures associated with the game.