Stakeholder Theory and NFL Referees

As a graduate student I am bombarded with theory that makes sense on paper, but I wonder how it plays out in the real world.  Stakeholder theory is simple to understand and it works in practice.  It makes sense in the library and on the street.  It says that  businesses need to consider everyone who has a stake in the company’s success or is affected by the business.  Businesses can no longer just be concerned about what customer’s think, but they need to care about their employees, the community, etc.  The NFL seems to have forgotten that they have a whole list of stakeholders that they must cater to.  The current labor situation with the referees is a prime example of this.  I was watching the game Monday  night and the replacement referees seemed to have lost control of the game.  There were long periods of inaction.  Frankly, I was about to turn the channel to watch “I Love Lucy” reruns.  It became tedious watching grown men stare at each other.

The NFL needs to understand that the game IS the product and that there are multiple stakeholders that need to be satisfied:  the players, the referees, the owners, the fans, the television networks.  These referees are hurting the brand and alienating a broad spectrum of constituents.  This is not just about labor issues.  It is about upsetting most of their stakeholders.  The NFL needs to realize that alienating fans and players for the sake of a few bucks is not worth it.  As fans turn to ME TV and the ratings go down and the advertising revenues go down and the profits go down, the League will realize that the quality of the brand is the most important thing.  OOOPS!

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