THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE has been blasted across the board for its handling of Ray Rice’s domestic abuse of his then-fiancée Janay Palmer, as well as for how it dealt with other incidents of domestic violence among its players. Obviously, the NFL has mobilized its PR department as well as hiring staff specifically to deal with domestic violence issues, but it has also attempted to shore up its lobbying wing; The Hill reported Tuesday that the NFL has hired a new top lobbyist.
However, as POLITICO notes, lobbying for an embattled organization, even one as prominent and popular as the NFL, isn’t the most attractive prospect for a government relations professional. New NFL Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs Cynthia Hogan will have to deal with a litany of high-profile legislative issues beyond the Ray Rice case, including the FCC’s review of the sports blackout rule, the controversy over the Washington Redskins’ name and logo, and recent calls to revoke the NFL’s tax-exempt status. Further, POLITICO reports that despite the NFL’s prominence, the pay for the position was thought to be insufficient given the pressure and level of seniority the NFL is seeking for the job.
Despite the immense challenge and pressure Hogan is likely to face, her hire may prove to be a boon for the league. Hogan was a staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee with then-Senator Joe Biden and helped write the Violence Against Women Act, one of the strongest laws against domestic abuse. This gives her significant credibility to deal with the Ray Rice scandal on the Hill.
It’s likely, given the numerous high-stakes legislative issues that the NFL is facing, that the league will also continue to spend significantly on outside lobbying. According to data from Lobbyists.info, the NFL has spent more than $2.5 million on lobbying since 2012, with $590,000 in the first two quarters of 2014 alone. Given the Ray Rice scandal and mounting pressure on other issues, it seems probable that lobbying expenditures in the second half of 2014 will be even greater.
It remains to be seen if the NFL can weather the legislative and PR disasters of 2014 and regain credibility with fans, women’s groups, legislators, and the media. Although Cynthia Hogan’s hire is a step in the right direction, it’s unclear if the NFL will be able to stem the mounting tide of harmful legislative issues.