As the NFL season kicks off tonight, you might notice a few changes on the field. Instead of kicking extra points from the two-yard line, teams will kick them from the 15-yard line. And defenders will be allowed to score two points if they take possession of the ball and run it to their end zone.
Since last season, you all have helped the NFL make some major changes that you won’t see on the field tonight. And yet, those changes have had far-reaching impact on America’s favorite sport.
There were almost 10,000 petitions referencing football and the NFL in the last year, gathering more than three million signatures. That’s nearly double the number of petitions over the year prior.
The surge in petition creation follows a 2014 season that was particularly rough for the NFL. As a result, people across the United States and abroad demanded harsher and more consistent punishment of players, like Ray Rice, who commit domestic violence. The debate over Washington’s team name continued to wage. A spotlight was put on the long-term effects of the game on its players. People wanted action taken.
That’s not to say that all the NFL-related petitions were quite so serious. Nearly 130,000 people also asked the NFL to let Weird Al Yankovich to perform in the Superbowl halftime show.
I’m sure you’re curious now…what was actually changed with all of this activity?
These are five of the biggest ways that you transformed the NFL in the last year:
Until earlier this year, the National Football League enjoyed the status as a non-profit organization – meaning it didn’t pay federal corporate taxes – despite being a $10 billion per year industry. That changed when Lynda Woolard petitioned Congress to revoke its tax exempt status and won with the support of almost 430,000 people.
Last year, Ray Rice was suspended two games following the leak of a video that showed him punching his fiancee. Gretchen Tome started a petition after noticing that Rice, and others who had committed domestic abuse, had far more lenient punishments than those who were caught abusing substances, like marijuana. She won her petition asking Roger Goodell to create more consistent punishment guidelines for domestic abuse with the help of nearly 150,000 people.
Chris Kluwe was a punter for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings for eight years. He believes that he lost his job because he was, and continues to be, a vocal advocate for the LGBT community. With the help of 80,000 signers, he won his petition for an investigation into his claim to be released to the public.
When former Raiderette cheerleader Susie Sanchez filed suit against the Raiders, she reported that she made just $6.50 an hour, well below California’s minimum wage. As Diane Todd noted in her petition, this is common practice across the NFL where cheerleaders are regarded as seasonal employees. That changed in California, thanks to her petition and nearly 18,000 signatures, which helped pass a bill requiring that cheerleaders be classified as employees.
It used to be that if a team didn’t sell enough tickets to a game it was barred from airing that game on television. The Sports Fans Coalition thought that was unfair to fans, many of whom can’t afford tickets to games. It started a petition that was signed by more than 8,300 people and ultimately helped convince the FCC to overturn the 40-year-old rule.
So, what are you going to change this year?