Jul. 7, 2016. NFL informs health advocacy groups it will curb fantasy football marketing to young kids

Josh Golin, (617) 896-9368, josh@commercialfreechildhood.org
Keith Whyte, (202) 547-9204 x. 23, keithw@ncpgambling.org
Marlene Warner, (617) 426-4554, marlene@masscompulsivegambling.org 

NFL informs health advocacy groups it will curb fantasy football marketing to young kids
NFL stops offering school curriculum and prizes based on game results for kids aged 6 to 12

BOSTON, MA and WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) announced that the National Football League (NFL) has agreed to curtail its marketing of fantasy football to children aged six to twelve. 

The NFL aggressively marketed fantasy football to kids on its NFL Rush Fantasy website and app during the 2015-2016 season, offering cash prizes and game consoles to contest winners, and even promoted an elementary school curriculum that encouraged children to play the game. In February 2016, CCFC and NCPG sent letters asking the NFL to stop enticing children to play fantasy football, citing evidence that playing fantasy sports for valuable prizes can lead to problem gambling and addiction. A 2014 study of college students found that fantasy sports participation was correlated with gambling-related problems, and should not be perceived as a “safe” or “harmless” form of gambling. 

After meeting with CCFC, NCPG, and the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, the NFL has informed the groups that it will make significant changes to the game:

  1. Cash prizes or “scholarships” will be eliminated;
  2. Weekly and grand prizes will not be awarded based on results in the game. Instead, all participants will be eligible for random drawings to determine prize winners; and
  3. The school curriculum based on the game has been discontinued and the league has promised it will not promote fantasy sports in schools in the future.

“We are pleased that the NFL has agreed to make these changes, and young children will no longer have a financial stake in the outcome of its games,” said Josh Golin, Executive Director of CCFC. “It is also good news for parents that the league will no longer enlist teachers and schools in an effort to get children into the habit of playing fantasy sports.” 

Added NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte, “We appreciate the NFL’s response to our concerns and look forward to continued dialogue with all stakeholders to encourage responsible play and prevent addiction, particularly among kids.” 

The NFL had operated and promoted a game for kids with all the trappings of daily fantasy sports-including frequent contests requiring constant attention to lineups and the incentive of valuable prizes-without requiring the payment of a fee. The NFL offered Grand Prizes of $5,000 cash (called a “scholarship”) or a vacation for three in Hawaii to the two children with the highest point totals for the season, and Xbox One consoles and Madden NFL 16 games to the child with the highest point total each week. Last season, the game was prominently advertised on the NFL Rush website for kids, and on the online version of Sports Illustrated intended for children, SIKIDS.com. 

The NFL also contracted with Young Minds Inspired, an “educational marketing agency,” to promote its fantasy game in schools. NFL Rush Fantasy-Learn, Play, Score! was a math and language arts curriculum centered entirely on NFL fantasy football, including activity sheets and a teacher’s guide. Students were required to register for the NFL’s fantasy football game in order to access lesson materials and complete assignments. 

Adults concerned that participation in fantasy sports games by themselves or their children is causing negative consequences may seek confidential assistance by contacting the National Problem Gambling Helpline, via voice or text at 1-800-522-4700 and by chat at www.ncpgambling.org/chat.