Those watching ESPN's Monday Night Football this week may have wondered what was going on when, just before the game, a truck commercial came on... in Spanish. There were no subtitles. President Obama then addressed viewers to honor contributions of Hispanic football players. That it's Hispanic Heritage Month isn’t the whole story.
One of the teams playing, the Miami Dolphins, is positioning itself to better appeal to Hispanic Americans. Before the game, Marc Anthony (Marco Antonio Muñiz), a singing superstar of Puerto Rican heritage, sang the Star Spangled Banner. During the game, cameras caught Anthony's wife, Jenifer Lopez, cheering. The two have become minority owners of the team. Later in the game, Gloria Estefan, the godmother of US-based Latin pop music, was featured signing autographs on the sidelines.
A 2009 Harris Interactive poll found 51% of US Hispanics said they follow pro football, and NFL teams in states with large Latino populations are vying for their fanship.
The San Diego Chargers, representing a city with a huge Hispanic population, are reaching into Mexico, as is last year's surprise Super Bowl attendee, the Arizona Cardinals. The team hopes to win over Spanish speakers by hosting youth football camps and cheerleading clinics in Mexico, featuring players and cheerleaders. They also offer Spanish radio broadcasts, and a Spanish version of their website.
But while the Dolphins, Chargers and Cardinals may see an increase in the Hispanic demographic of their fan base, they are all going to have to get in line behind Latinos' overall favorite U.S. football team, the Dallas Cowboys. During the 1970s, Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm added 16 Spanish-language stations, including some in Mexico, to the Cowboys' radio network. Currently, the team maintains the Silver Network, which broadcasts all Cowboys games live and in Spanish, reaching 27 radio stations in Texas, three in New Mexico, one in Louisiana, one in Kansas, and four in Mexico. The Cowboys’ early look to Mexico assures that they will be the most popular team amongst Hispanics for a long time to come.