Analysis: Shame on NFL for pay-to-play gig

Super Bowl performers have to pay now?

The league reportedly is asking Super Bowl halftime show performers to pay for the privilege to play. Isn't this supposed to be about entertainment? Or just making a buck?

Don’t back down, Coldplay. Nor you, Rihanna or Katy Perry.

But then again, maybe Chris Martin can lead his British lads out on stage at Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Az., and sing “Things I Don’t Understand.” Heck, let’s not stop there. Perhaps the NFL can use its influence Down Under to hire ACDC to sing “Moneytalks.”

There’s probably a long list of appropriate numbers which would fit the moment, if the NFL gets its way and artists agree to pay for the “privilege” to play during the halftime show.

Yeah, the NFL is trying to squeeze a few more bucks out of its moneymaker, as if millions in advertising dollars aren’t enough. According to various reports, Coldplay, Rihanna and Katy Perry are finalists to work the next Super Bowl halftime show, but there’s an unprecedented snag. The league wants them to pay, and the artists evidently would rather take an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge then give into the greed.

Good for them. Let’s dump a bucket of ice water on the league, shall we?

Say what you want about Colts owner Jim Irsay, but he couldn’t have agreed to this. No way. As most around Indy know, Irsay loves his music. I saw the picture many years back of a naked Irsay holding a strategically placed guitar so the snapshot wouldn’t be R-rated.

The dude loves to jam. And he’s put his money where his soul is. He’s forked out the dough to put on free concerts at training camp as well as before big games. The latest “Kickoff Concert” gig is Sept. 5, when Irsay brings Blues Traveler to Downtown Indy. I seriously doubt Jimmy asked those guys to pay to play.

To steal a trendy line from hipsters everywhere, and one that Irsay can undoubtedly relate to, “That ain’t cool, man.”

Perhaps it’s time Mr. Irsay gets on the phone to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Maybe the Colts owner can take one for music lovers everywhere. If it’s true the commish is going to suspend him at some point this season because of a March arrest for his driving while under the influence, then why not use his influence to set the league straight on how idiotic it is to tell Katy Perry she can sing “Roar” for a price?

Why stop there? What’s next? Maybe the media should pay fan prices to cover these preseason games? OK, that makes me cringe even more, so much so that I should be suspended for mentioning it. Sorry to all my fellow scribes everywhere.

But you get the point. Those of us in the real world who worry about how to pay the next mortgage understand that the NFL is big business. No “non-profit” sports enterprise in the world can touch what the league has become. We get that. And real people ignore the obvious money grabs from these exhibition games because they care about their team and will pay whatever is asked to be a part of the experience.

But that doesn’t make it right. And each time I take my comfy seat in a press box and see empty seats for a preseason game, I think, “Good for the fans.” They may fork up the dollars, but that doesn’t mean they will all show up when the games don’t count.

Alas, I’m getting sidetracked a bit.

Here’s hoping someone comes to their senses and straightens out this halftime pay-to-play pitch. Because the reality is, while Coldplay, Rihanna and Katy Perry can reject this ridiculous proposal, somebody else inevitably will jump at the chance to get the exposure. Then the halftime show becomes a paid advertisement for whomever needs the gig to try to sustain a career, as opposed to it being about entertainment for the fans.

Oh, yeah, that gets lost in all of this, doesn’t it? It’s supposed to be about entertainment, isn’t it? The actual football game. And the halftime show.

Or maybe that’s just a myth sold to the public. Perhaps it’s always about the bottom line, about making a buck, no matter what. If true, the only sound that needs to be heard is that of a cash register.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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