It’s an NFL “women’s movement.”
With the new season looming, it looks like the NFL is getting off to another fumbled start with women fans. Last year it was the Ray Rice elevator incident. This year, it’s “Red: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Women’s Movement.” Susan B. Anthony would not approve.
The Buccaneers Red “women’s movement” aims to “e-invent the female fan experience” by man-splaining to women things like “What does the term “play clock” mean?” and giving women “an all-access pass to Vincent Jackson’s new restaurant venture, Cask Social.” You know, women’s football things.
“RED is a groundbreaking women’s movement designed to recognize and celebrate our female fan base,” stated Glazer Family Foundation co-president Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, which is backing the project. “Through exclusive offerings and experiences, our female fans will have the opportunity to not only add to their knowledge of the game they love, but also to help create a community through RED and own the way they enjoy football.”
The Red Women’s Movement will launch with a special stadium event Sept. 10 that will, in part, “educate attendees on the art of incorporating their passion for the Bucs into their other lifestyle interests such as tailgating and home entertaining.” Furthermore:
“RED members will also have access to exclusive networking events throughout the year designed to encourage interaction while providing practical advice on how to express their love for the Bucs into original design projects, fashion-forward team apparel and creative culinary creations.”
So how did women take to being wooed into football with fashion, cooking and design?
The campaign has been less than well received by women who see its focus on “creative culinary creations” and “home entertaining” as sexist and its football-for-dummies explainers as insulting. The teams Facebook page has been flooded with angry comments. Even the Tampa Bay Times, the team’s hometown newspaper, admitted the women’s movement was moving women lash out against the Bucs.
As the Times notes, the press reaction has been harsh: “Embarrassingly sexist,” said USA Today. Slate.com called it “condescending.” The Washington Post said the Bucs had “infuriated” the very fans they were trying to embrace.
What’s more, is there really a crisis in getting women into professional football? The NFL already reports that almost half (43.5 percent) of its fans are female, and says 62 percent of all females 12 and older consider themselves NFL fans. This year’s Super Bowl had 54 million female viewers, making it the most-watched show by women of all time. In fact, the top six most-watched shows by women are all Super Bowls.
Cynics may point out that the launch of the team’s Women’s Movement comes just after the Buccaneers signed star rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. A national champion at Florida State, Winston was dogged by allegations that he raped women there, although he was never charged. Winston will start with the team in its preseason games this month. Not surprisingly, the women’s movement makes no mention of Winston.
The Bucs are just the latest pro sports team to fail to think through its messaging when it comes to its women fans. In May, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers apologized after an ad poked fun at domestic violence. After the recent landmark step of a National Football League team (the Arizona Cardinals) hiring the first female coach in Jen Welter, the Bucs are taking the NFL’s image two steps backward.