Did you hear? If you care about women and are against women-beating (as most people are), but watch the NFL, you're a hypocrite. At least, so says news editor Erin Gloria Ryan over at Jezebel in a piece designed to shame watchers of the NFL into giving up the league. Is she right? Perhaps. But the answer to that question is immaterial here. It's immaterial because if we're really going to play this game -- the one where we all act like our moral character can be determined by the behavior of the companies we associate ourselves with and whose products we consume, then everyone is, in Ryan's own words, "a fucking hypocrite." That includes Ryan herself, who, by her own standards of hypocrisy and morality, should resign immediately.
While Ryan all too happily skewers domestic abuse-opposing NFL fans for their hypocrisy, she seems to have no trouble collecting a paycheck from a company -- Gawker Media -- that is funded in part by a host of companies that also do very lucrative business with the NFL. It's easy to lambaste unnamed millions of NFL fans for continuing to watch a league that has quite obviously bungled the Ray Rice situation beyond belief, but it's quite another to remain silent on the very "partners" responsible for keeping Gawker Media, and by extension Jezebel, up and running.
How big of a hypocrisy are we talking about? Let's have a look at some of these partners who advertise on Gawker Media's websites and who also have sponsorships with the NFL to get an idea of just how many companies participate in this hypocritical enabling of domestic violence in the league:
- Microsoft's Surface tablet is The Official Tablet of the NFL.
- Marriott is The Official Hotel Sponsor of the NFL.
- Google has NFL Mobile in its app store.
- Anheuser-Busch -- the parent company of Budweiser, which is a Gawker partner -- is the Super Bowl's biggest advertiser.
- Comcast carries NFL games.
- Verizon carries NFL games.
- HTC carries NFL games.
- Hulu carries NFL Network.
- HBO annually airs Hard Knocks -- a documentary that follows an NFL team in the preseason.
- Yahoo! has NFL Fantasy Football.
- Lexus is sponsoring the halftime of every Thursday Night Football game for the 2014 season.
- ABC is a sister station of ESPN, which broadcasts Monday night games.
- Mercedes-Benz has the naming rights to an NFL stadium.
- Qualcomm has the naming rights to an NFL stadium.
- American express has the naming rights to the suite area of an NFL stadium.
- EA Games annually produces the famous NFL video game, Madden.
You get the idea. And this list doesn't even include the commercial air time that some of these companies and other Gawker partners not named here purchase during NFL games and NFL shows.
So my question is, when will Ryan write the piece where she A) takes her own company's sponsors to task for forking over billions of dollars to the very league she says "doesn't give a shit about women," and B) takes a truly principled and unhypocritical stand and announces her resignation from Jezebel to wash her hands of these companies' funding? Anyone can just blast faceless NFL fans for continuing to watch the league. It's a harmless and completely inconsequential exercise, and one that papers over her own gross hypocrisy.
This is the problem with corporate-consumer, guilt-by-association commentary and hashtag activism. Those who engage in it inevitably indict themselves because the fact is, in our highly consumerized society, it is virtually impossible to live without either directly or indirectly supporting in some way a company whose actions we might find unsavory. And I say "might" because the truth is, the vast majority of companies that produce the stuff we buy or watch aren't having the curtain pulled back on them. Sure, we can point to the NFLs and the Chick-fil-As of the world and conclude that they're no good, but for every one of those there are 1,000 or more whose policies regarding domestic violence, or gay rights, or abortion, or insert-other-cause-here we know nothing about. And we know nothing about them because researching all of that would be way too time-consuming, and if we did manage to put together a list of companies so we know which products to shun, we'd have almost nothing left to buy or watch.
Erin Gloria Ryan is free to live her life one boycott at a time atop her hypocritical high-horse as she sneers down with haughty self-righteousness at those who fail to meet her expectations of behavior. As for me, I refuse to pretend that the products we consume are indicative of our moral character and will continue not to care whether my morals pass the Jezebel smell test.