NFL PSA does not make up for the past

Jill Power | Student Columnist

The Super Bowl has come and gone, which means we can all go back to being annoyed by television commercials again.

People are often just as excited to see what company or brand has the most entertaining or captivating commercial as they are for the game to start. The advertising for the Super Bowl, after all, doesn’t come cheap; according to, each 30-second advertising spot costs $4.5 million on average to play during the Super Bowl’s many commercial breaks. Companies pay that amount on top of whatever it costs to create the advertisement itself. For that amount of money, viewers expect the best.

When the NFL announced that they were donating a 30-second spot for a domestic violence PSA, the organization faced an eager audience. This was their chance to prove that they stood with domestic abuse survivors. This could have been the end to the public relations nightmare that had been the 2014-2015 football season. This could have easily beat that sappy puppy commercial as the best ad of them all.

Instead, the advertisement, created and produced by the NFL’s own internal advertisement agency, was 30 seconds of what seemed like still shots of a messy household, while a dramatization of a supposedly real 911 call plays atop them.

What makes this commercial at least partially effective is the reenactment of the 911 call. The call read in the video, involves a female abuse victim pretending to order a pizza, while her dispatcher catches up to the act and asks strategic questions in order to determine her situation without exposing her to her abuser. The video ends with the phrase “When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen,” in text and a web address for

Initially, this seems like a job well done on behalf of the NFL. They provided a well produced PSA for a relevant issue using a real woman’s story of escape and her heroic dispatcher’s quick thinking. What’s so wrong about this?

The 911 call that they recreated was originally a post on Reddit by Keith Weisinger under the username Crux1836. The dialogue of the call was posted on the AskReddit forum, under the post “911 Operators, what is the 1 call that you could never forget?” [sic]. At the very least, it can be confirmed that this call actually happened.

While this is mildly reassuring, there are still too many problems with this ad to call it effective.

Public service announcements are not designed to sell a product; PSA are created to inform the public about difficult issues while giving them resources to cope with them. It would follow that a PSA about domestic violence would include information about domestic violence, including its signs and resources like hotlines for victims.

But there’s none of that in this ad. There is no frank voice explaining that a controlling boyfriend isn’t just looking out for your friend’s best interests. There is no one to show you where to look for bruises. There is no one to tell you that consent is a continuous thing, a single-serving that you need to get each and every time. There isn’t even a live human being in this ad.

The only indication that this is a PSA for domestic violence is the advertisement’s audio. Although it is the Super Bowl, and many people (myself included) tune in solely to watch the commercials, many people are immune to the hype. If this PSA was played on mute, as commercials often are, then it would be difficult to understand that it was about domestic violence.

Not even the end text gives a clear indication about the ad. Next to no one had heard of prior to Sunday’s game. No one seems responsible for the non-profit, either. The top 10 names that are listed under the executive committee are names of companies like May Kay Inc. and other companies’ existing non-profits, such as the Allstate Foundation and the Verizon Foundation. There are no names of people listed on their website. There is no one person responsible for this organization. Why does no one want to take responsibility for this organization?

What this PSA amounts to is the NFL throwing money at a problem they do not intend to solve. Although there will always be Ray Rices in sports, in Hollywood, in any organization, there does not have to be another Janay.