Silent Green

by Chris Kenton on February 13, 2005

This is weird. I was scanning radio stations while stuck in traffic, and heard just the tail end of a call-in conversation about the NFL and some environmental project they supposedly undertook during the Super Bowl. All I heard was the caller claim that the NFL had planted a forest to offset the amount of CO2 it was estimated the Super Bowl activities would produce. To my ears that sounded about as likely as a NASCAR fundraiser to save spotted owls. But when I got home I looked it up online, and found… nothing.

I Googled "Super Bowl CO2", "Super Bowl trees", "NFL environment", and came up with lots of rat holes but no good hits. I searched the Super Bowl site, the NFL site, and then through some permutation of search terms on Google I came up with a Sierra Club link that referenced the planting of 1,000 trees by the city of Jacksonville. So it wasn’t the NFL after all. But wait, after searching on "1,000 trees" and "Superbowl", I finally found my way to a local Jacksonville site with the lowdown on the event.

Not only was the NFL involved, it was the NFL Environmental Program. And it gets better. This environmental project, officially titled the Super Bowl XXXIX Carbon Neutral initiative, saw the NFL teaming up "with climate and biological scientists across the country to determine the amount of greenhouse gas produced by Super Bowl events". To offset the output of gas, they worked with local volunteers to plant 1,000 trees.

This isn’t a joke. This was a real event, so quiet that you have to jump through endless search engine hoops to find any mention of it, unless you know exactly where to look. Not only does no mention appear on the NFL site, they don’t even have a reference to an "NFL Environmental Program".

Why would the NFL, no stranger to the art of promotion, take on an activity that shows deep community values, and offer not so much as a press release about it? What kind of an impact would it have had if one of those crappy 30-second commercials had been replaced with a simple clip of NFL-backed volunteers planting trees to make the Super Bowl a little greener? Don’t get me wrong–if the NFL is fulfilling its values with actions instead of words, that’s admirable. But unless I’m missing something, there’s a more likely scenario, and it’s a disturbing one.

Maybe the NFL has determined that being green isn’t good for its brand.

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