One story that was completely overlooked during the recently completed round of NFL playoff games was NBC’s staunch decision to spotlight kneeling by Super Bowl players of color during the playing of the national anthem.
That’s a pretty gutsy move considering any number of conservative, America First, deep-pocketed advertisers are probably deciding right now whether to yank their advertising or let it ride (or, if they don’t pull their spend, Tweet an immediate corporate response distancing themselves from NBC and the kneeling players).
Many organizations would see the kneeling question as a real conundrum:
1.) If we don’t cover kneeling players, we won’t lose millions of sponsor dollars. But will we be doing the right thing?
2.) If we do cover the kneeling, we’ll undoubtedly lose millions of dollars. But, we’ll be staying true to our values.
NBC didn’t flinch. Their Super Bowl Executive Producer, Fred Gaudelli, said, “The Super Bowl is a live event….and when you’re covering a live event, you’re covering what’s happening. So, if there are players that choose to kneel, they will be shown live.”
Holy Trump Tweet in the making, Batman!
NBC’s decision tells me two things:
1.) The organization will not be cowed by politically conservative sponsors (and, god knows what the ripple effect might be. There’s a very real possibility that some neo-conservative advertisers will threaten to yank ALL of their NBC sponsor dollars).
2.) The Matt Lauer disaster notwithstanding, it’s obvious that Gaudelli’s decision was supported by the C-Suite and driven by the organization’s corporate purpose.
In my mind, corporate purpose has evolved from a warm-and-fuzzy “nice to have” statement to becoming an organization’s North Star guiding top executives to make the right decision, double down on their core beliefs and convey clear, consistent messaging.
Afterword: Considering the fact the Super Bowl will be played in February (which also happens to be black history month), I have to believe we’ll see quite a few Super Bowl players take a knee. It’ll be interesting to see how many corporate advertisers stand tall or take a different type of knee and yank their ads.