Update (9/28/23): In a statement to NBC's Pro Football Talk, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the “NFL unequivocally denounces any form of hate speech and has absolutely no association with these individuals or any group that promotes racism. As soon as this was brought to our attention, we immediately expressed our concerns to X to understand and rectify the issue.” Meanwhile, Media Matters reported this morning that another NFL ad appeared on Stew Peters' X account near a post promoting a segment on his show that called for the public executions of NFL star Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift.
X (formerly Twitter) has been placing advertisements for the NFL on prominent white nationalist accounts, including accounts that have attacked the league by calling it anti-white. While X has been monetizing those racist accounts, which collectively have over a million followers, a senior NFL executive recently praised company CEO Linda Yaccarino for supposedly “doing great work innovating to make the platform better.”
Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s chief media and business officer, wrote on X last week that he “had a great visit with @lindayaX and the @X Client Council. They are doing great work innovating to make the platform better for @NFL fans and partners. Thanks for having me!”
Despite the NFL’s endorsement, X has descended into a cesspool of bigotry, conspiracy theories, and antisemitism under Yaccarino and owner Elon Musk. That toxic content makes companies that advertise with X especially vulnerable, as the platform has placed advertisements for major brands directly on pro-Hitler, Holocaust denial, white nationalist, pro-violence, and neo-Nazi accounts. Ads, including for the NFL, have also appeared next to unhinged conspiracy theories about Jewish people and 9/11.
In recent years, the NFL has attempted to brand itself as committed to diversity and racial equality. After former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the league last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claimed that “we have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas, however we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable.”
Goodell also said: "Racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to the NFL's values.” But that doesn’t seem to extend to the NFL’s advertising.
Media Matters reviewed five prominent white nationalist accounts and quickly found that X placed NFL advertising on their timelines. Collectively, the accounts have over 1 million followers. And because those accounts are verified, they theoretically could receive revenue from those NFL ads under the social platform’s revenue sharing program.
The stark contrast between the NFL’s stated pro-diversity goals and its ads on white nationalist content serves as another reminder to advertisers that Yaccarino’s promises about “brand safety” mean little.
Here are those five accounts.
VDare is one of the leading white nationalist organizations in the country. It posts content warning readers about the supposed danger of Black people and non-white immigrants. Its X account includes such posts as:
“VIDEO: Black Crime Destroying American Cities.”
“The advertising industry’s obsession with casting blacks is more than affirmative action run wild. It is mental reprogramming designed to convince whites of their eventual demographic demise.”
“#CampOfTheSaints is breaking out all over America tonight. Black insurrection. Antifa riots. Post-1965 immigrants rioting. This is the new America supplanting white America.” (The Camp of the Saints is a favorite novel of white nationalists.)
VDare has also attacked the NFL as anti-white, including writing: “Turn off the NFL for good. Never kneel to anyone that supports the anti-white blood libel of Black Lives Matter”; and “Diversity = No White People: NFL Celebrates Diversity With First ALL-BLACK Officiating Crew.”
X has placed advertising for the NFL on VDare’s verified account, which has over 65,000 followers.
NFL ads also appear in a search of NFL content on VDare posts:
X has placed advertising for the NFL on Peters’ verified account, which has over 424,000 followers:
NFL advertising also appears in a search of “NFL” on Peters’ account:
Baked Alaska (Tim Gionet) is a white supremacist streamer who recently went to jail for his actions on January 6. He was also found guilty of destroying a Hanukkah display in Arizona in 2020. He was part of the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
X has placed advertising for the NFL on Baked Alaska’s verified account, which has over 142,000 followers.
Richard Spencer has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the country’s most successful young white nationalist leaders … whose goal is the establishment of a white ethno-state in North America.” A jury found Spencer liable for damages due to his participation in the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Spencer has written of the NFL: “All White people should boycott the NFL and College Football. Spend time with the fam instead. Play a sport; don't watch thugs.”
X has placed advertising for the NFL on Spencer’s verified account, which has over 77,000 followers.
Andrew Torba is the antisemitic and white nationalist founder of Gab, a social media platform that’s been a haven for neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and other extremists. In 2018, a Gab user killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue after posting about his plans on the site.
Torba uses his X account to promote antisemitism and white nationalism, including recently sharing a meme that said: “White people have a simple choice to make: Be conquered, enslaved, raped and genocided while being called ‘racist’. 2. Reclaim our nations and our dignity while being called ‘racist’. It’s that simple.”
X has placed advertising for the NFL on Torba’s verified account, which has over 375,000 followers.
And here’s an example of how the NFL advertising looks on Torba’s timeline next to white nationalist content: