NFL Play 60: Stay Off Our Bus!

 The National Football League's Gambit to Commercialize School Children 

Part 2 - Gathering Information


Scope of the Problem

What follows are some of the facts we have uncovered as well as some assumptions we have made which need to be verified. I will limit my comments throughout this section as there will be plenty of those opinions to be expressed later. For now, I just want to provide the reader with what we know and do not know.

What We Know

  1. That our two children were not allowed to attend the NFL Play 60 celebration assembly, simply because we refused to sign the NFL’s Waiver of Liability and Release.
  2. The number of students enrolled at Cathcart Elementary for the 2011-2012 school year is officially listed at 414.
  3. The number of students in attendance at the NFL Play 60 celebration assembly at Cathcart Elementary is over 400. References include:
    1. According to an article on the Seattle Seahawks website, the student count is precisely 410.
    2. According to the video posted on the Seattle Seahawks website, Seattle Seahawks spokesman Tony Ventrella states that, “More than 400 students” were in attendance during the NFL Play 60 celebration assembly at Cathcart Elementary.

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What We Think We Know

We think these statements are factually correct, but they need to be verified:

  1. There were 4 children in the one classroom that included our children who did not attend the NFL Play 60 celebration assembly.
  2. There was at least one other classroom of students who did not attend the NFL Play 60 celebration assembly. We have been led to believe that students who did not attend the celebration assembly were divided into two groups based upon age range; K-3 and 4-6. However, there is a possibility that the students were divided into three groups based upon the age ranges K-2, 3&4 and 5&6.

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Assumptions

  1. Based upon item 4, above, there were an estimated 8 to 12 children who did not attend the NFL Play 60 celebration assembly at Cathcart Elementary. Using Cathcart Elementary as the standard for comparison (the best we have so far), and for the sake of rounding and simplicity, we will assume that 10 children from each school did not attend their respective NFL Play 60 celebration assemblies.
  2. Again, using Cathcart Elementary as a standard for comparison, we will assume there are roughly 400 students at every grand prize winning school.
  3. According to the NFL Charities website, “NFL PLAY 60 was officially launched in October of 2007.”, so NFL Play 60 has been in existence for 7 years.
  4. According to the NFL Rush website, there were 34 grand prize winning schools (32 team markets plus 2 at-large, “non-team market” schools) for the 2011-2012 school year.
  5. We will assume that all grand prize winning schools acted in the same manner as Cathcart Elementary.

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Extrapolation - Some Simple Math

Based upon the information and assumptions above, let’s perform a little simple math:

For 2011 alone:

(34 award winning schools) x (10 students excluded per school) =
340 students potentially excluded from their respective NFL Play 60 celebration assemblies.

Extrapolate this over just the last 3 years I have been observing the NFL Play 60 program:

(3 years) x (34 award winning schools) x (10 students excluded per school) =
1,020 students potentially excluded from their respective NFL Play 60 celebration assemblies. If you extrapolate this back the full 7 years, then this figure potentially grows to over 2,000 students.

While the sample groups are too small and the assumptions we made are too inaccurate to provide precise figures, we can clearly see that our children are probably not in a unique situation, but that the problem, collectively, is rather significant.

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The National Football League is a Non-Profit Organization

I was surprised to discover this and I’m willing to bet that most people don’t realize that the National Football League is classified as a non-profit organization under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue code, which means that it is an enterprise that promotes a common business interests and is not engaged in regular business of a kind ordinarily carried out for profit. The actual statute reads as such:

IRC 501(c)(6) provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues (whether or not administering a pension fund for football players), which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.”

Although there are some current political challenges to the NFL’s tax-exempt status, I find it unlikely that this will change any time soon.

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About NFL Play 60

According to several websites, including their own, NFL Play 60 is a charity that promotes health and fitness to school children. The NFL sponsors several contests throughout the year, aimed towards both individuals and schools. The NFL also sponsors several public events throughout the year, primarily aimed towards individuals who, I assume, want to meet NFL players.

While I cannot attest that the NFL Play 60 contest rules I have read are the exact set that were in effect when the Cathcart Parent Organization entered the contest, all of the contest rules I have obtained - both for individual and school contests - include publicity clauses. I have not read any rules pertaining to NFL Play 60 events open to the general public, but I would imagine that attendees were required to sign a similar Wavier of Liability and Release in order to gain entry to these events.


NFL Play 60 Partners

The NFL Play 60 program has several partners, the most notable of which is probably Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. NFL Play 60 partners include:

  • Action for Healthy Kids
  • The Ad Council
  • American Heart Association
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Brax Fundraising Ltd
  • Cartoon Network
  • EA Sports
  • FitnessGram
  • Gatorade
  • Health-E-tips
  • HopSports
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  • Let’s Move
  • KaBOOM!
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Midwest Dairy Association (and the State of Illinois)
  • Muñoz Agency
  • National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NASPE)
  • National Dairy Council
  • Nickelodeon
  • Procter & Gamble
  • PLAYWORKS
  • President’s Challenge Program
  • School Nutrition Association
  • Under Armour
  • United Way

I first noticed the NFL Play 60 partnership with Microsoft Corporation as I was watching Super Bowl XLVI. For those of you who may not know, Microsoft was co-founded by Paul Allen, the current owner of the Seattle Seahawks. Microsoft was airing an advertisement for the X-Box 360 and they announced their partnership with NFL Play 60 at the end of the ad. This partnership was confirmed at Microsoft’s News Center.

There are probably more NFL Play 60 partners and the list continues to grow as this program gains popularity. These are just those partnerships I have discovered as my adventure has progressed so far.

In case you missed this on the NFL’s Waiver of Liability and Release, I have listed the “Program Entities” from that legal document below as I would consider those entities as NFL Play 60 partners:

  • Member professional football clubs (e.g., the Seattle Seahawks, etc.)
  • NFL Properties LLC
  • NFL Ventures L P
  • NFL Enterprises LLC
  • Project Support Team, Inc
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Wilson Sporting Goods

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NFL Play 60 Contest Rules

I have mentioned before that I was unable to obtain an exact copy of the NFL Play 60 Super School contest rules that were in effect for the contest that was won by Cathcart Elementary, but I have obtained a copy of the contest rules for 2013. While there could be some differences, I’m willing to bet that they are similar if not exactly the same. I am not going to list all of those contest rules, but there are several relevant sections that I have copied below:

5) Winner Selection:
One (1) potential Grand Prize winner from each of the thirty-two (32) NFL Team Markets and two (2) potential Grand Prize winners from the Non-Team Market will be selected, in accordance with the Judging procedure outlined below, for a total of thirty-four (34) potential Grand Prize winners.

NFL TEAM MARKETS (thirty-two (32) NFL Team Markets in total): Eligible entrants whose participating school (as determined by the zip code of the school's street address, at Sponsor's sole discretion) is within a 30-mile radius of the NFL Team's training facility or the city center (City Hall or other location, determined solely by Sponsor) in each NFL Team's home city will be entered into that applicable team's NFL Team Market. For a list of the thirty-two NFL Teams' training facility and city center locations (as determined by Sponsor), visit the Contest Site during the Entry Period. The radius of the following NFL Team Markets may overlap: Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins; New York Giants and the New York Jets; and the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. Entrants whose school falls within two (2) or more overlapping NFL Team Markets will be prompted, during the registration process, to select the NFL Team Market in which he/she would like the Entry submitted. If, in such a situation, an NFL Team Market is not selected by the entrant, Sponsor will select the NFL Team Market, at its discretion. Non-Team Market (one (1) Market): Eligible entrants whose school falls (as determined by the zip code of the school's street address, at Sponsor's sole discretion) outside of a 30-mile radius of all NFL Teams' training facility or city center (City Hall or other location, determined solely by Sponsor) will be entered into the Non-Team Market.

… moving on …

7) Prizes:
(34) Grand Prizes (one (1) per each of the thirty-two (32) NFL Team Markets and two (2) for the Non-Team Market): An NFL team celebration consisting of a visit to the school associated with the Grand Prize winning Entry for a portion of a school day by one (1) or more cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) (exact attendees determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion) and a $10,000 grant directly to the school awarded in the form of a check made payable to the winner's school, which may be used towards improving its students' health and wellness. Actual activities the cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) will participate in are dependent upon both the Sponsor's and the school's full permission and approval. Approximate Retail Value ("ARV") = $10,000 each. The NFL team celebration may not be recorded, photographed and/or videotaped by winner or any third party for any commercial purpose unless otherwise approved by Sponsor. Sponsor reserves the right to record, photograph and/or videotape all those attending the activities in which the cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) participate in ("School Attendees") (and such recordings, photographs and/or videotapes shall be owned by Sponsor), and use such recordings, photographs and/or videotapes in any and all media now known or hereafter created throughout the world in perpetuity without compensation to winner or any third party. School Attendees (and, if minors, their parents or legal guardians) will be required to execute and return a liability and publicity release prior to the NFL team celebration at the school. For those Grand Prize winners whose school is located within an NFL Team Market, Sponsor will designate cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) from the applicable team (exact attendees are at Sponsor's sole discretion). For those Grand Prize winners whose school is located in the Non-Team Market, Sponsor will designate cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) (selection of team and attendees are at Sponsor's sole discretion). Exact attendees for each NFL team celebration, date, time and duration of attendance at each school is at Sponsor's sole discretion. Grand Prize award is dependent upon applicable schools' full approval and cooperation. Cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) attendance at school is subject to availability. In the event a cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) is not available to attend school due to scheduling conflicts or any other reason, prize will be awarded minus the cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) attendance and no compensation or substitution for such portion of the prize will be provided. By accepting a prize, each winning school agrees that Sponsor and its designees may use (unless prohibited by law), such school's name, location, images, logos, and/or trademarks, any for advertising, trade and/or any other purposes in any media now or hereafter known throughout the world in perpetuity, without further compensation, permission or notification. All costs and expenses associated with the acceptance and use of a prize not specified herein as being awarded, including, but not limited to, all federal, state and local taxes, are the sole responsibility of each winning school. Total ARV of all prizes: $340,000. All prize details are at Sponsor's sole discretion.

8) Miscellaneous:
No transfer, assignment, cash redemption, or substitution of prize is permitted, except by Sponsor who reserves the right to substitute a prize with one of comparable or greater value, as determined by Sponsor. Entrants agree, by entering, that 1) Sponsor and its designees may use (unless prohibited by law), entrant's name, city and state of residence, Entry, photos, videos, any recording (film, video, voice, etc.), and/or likeness for advertising, trade and/or any other purposes in any media now or hereafter known throughout the world in perpetuity, without further compensation, permission or notification, and 2) the Released Parties shall have no liability and will be held harmless by entrant and winning schools for any claim, action, liability, loss, injury or damage to entrant, winning schools or any other person or entity, including, without limitation, personal injury or death to entrant or any other person or damage to personal or real property, due in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by reason of the acceptance, possession, use or misuse of any prize and any related activity thereto or participation in this Contest. Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to modify, suspend, and/or terminate this Contest (or any portion thereof) for any reason, including should virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention or other causes, including, but not limited to, war, strikes, and/or acts of God, corrupt or impair the administration, security, fairness or proper play of the Contest and, in the case of termination, at its discretion, select winner(s) for Markets(s) at issue from those eligible, non-suspect Entries received for such Market(s) prior to event requiring such termination using the judging procedure outlined herein.

Ownership/Assignment of Rights: Entrants warrant and represent that (1) Sponsor shall own the Entry, photo(s) and video and (and all material and rights embodied therein) and that such Entry, photo(s) and video will not be acknowledged or returned; and (2) that by entering, the Entrant irrevocably assigns to Sponsor and its designees any and all rights, title and interest in the Entry, photo(s) and video including but not limited to all intellectual property rights; and (3) that Sponsor and its designees shall have, without limitation, the perpetual right worldwide to edit, adapt, modify, publish, exploit and use the Entry, photo(s) and video in any way and in any and all media now known or hereinafter discovered or devised, world-wide for trade, advertising, promotional, public relations and/or other purposes as Sponsor and/or its designees may determine without further permission from, or notification or consideration to entrants or any third parties. Entrants further agree to abide by these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor and judges, which shall be final and binding. Entrant's submission of an Entry constitutes his/her representation of eligibility, consent to participate in Contest and consent for Sponsor to obtain, use, and transfer his/her name, address and other information for the purpose of Contest administration.

Released Parties are not responsible for lost, incomplete, invalid, unintelligible, inaccurate, undeliverable, garbled, late, stolen, damaged, delayed or misdirected Entries, photo(s) or video, all of which will be disqualified; failures or malfunctions of phones, phone lines or telephone systems or other communications or malfunctions; interrupted or unavailable network, server, cable, satellite, Internet Service Provider (ISP) or other connections; miscommunications, failed computer hardware or software or other technical failures; garbled, lost, misrouted or scrambled transmissions; any error, omission, interruption, defect or delay in any transmission or communication; traffic congestion on the Internet or for any technical problem, including but not limited to any injury or damage to entrants' or any other person's computer or other device related to or resulting from participation in the Contest; theft, destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of, Entries, photo(s) or video; or human-processing error; printing, typographical or other errors or omissions in these Official Rules or in any Contest-related advertisements or other materials; or other errors or problems of any kind whether mechanical, human, technical, network, electronic; or errors which may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the incorrect uploading of the photo(s) or video, the processing or judging of Entries, the cancellation or postponement of any cheerleader(s), mascot or NFL player(s) visit, the awarding or announcement of the winners and/or prizes or in any other Contest-related materials. Sponsor reserves the right to void and remove any and all Entries of a entrants who Sponsor believes has attempted to tamper with, influence, or impair the administration, security, fairness, judging or proper play of Contest and such entrant will be disqualified and all associated Entries will be void. All Entries become property of Sponsor and will not be returned. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE THE WEBSITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE CONTEST IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, THE SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK ANY AND ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE FROM ANY SUCH PERSON(S) FOR THE ATTEMPT TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.

… Section 9 omitted …

10) Choice of Law: All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, or the rights and obligations of participant and Sponsor in connection with the Contest, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the substantive laws of the State of New York, USA.

… Section 11 omitted …

Sponsor: NFL Enterprises LLC, 345 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10154.
Administrator: Project Support Team, Inc., 6 Berkshire Blvd., Bethel, CT 06801
www.projectsupportteam.com.

I will get back to this later. For now I want to stick with the facts as I know them.

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Internal Revenue Service Rules Regarding Charitable Organizations

As I have mentioned already, NFL Play 60 is a charity. I have yet to encounter any document that would confirm the precise status of this charity, but I assume it meets the exemption requirements specified by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Section 501(c)(3) of the United States tax code. These exemption requirements seem rather straight forward and are as follows:

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3), other than testing for public safety organizations, are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with Code section 170.

The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization's net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any organization managers agreeing to the transaction.

Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. For a detailed discussion, see Political and Lobbying Activities. For more information about lobbying activities by charities, see the article Lobbying Issues; for more information about political activities of charities, see the FY-2002 CPE topic Election Year Issues.

Again, we will just stick with the facts, for now.

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Continue to Part 3 - The Issues

 Copyright 2014 Mark McChesney