Sure, the barons of our pigskin pastime continue to rake in the dough, including their beleaguered commissioner, Roger Goodell, who has to get by on a measly $44 million per. But they’ve been tackled way short of the first-down marker in the public relations department, several times.
First came the league’s belated admission that this high-contact sport has left a large percentage of its former players with some form of brain damage. After years of denying the concussive nature of football–and following a drumbeat of recent depressing reports on the medical condition of some of the stars of yesteryear–the NFL went into full damage-control mode, offering up a pre-emptive $800-million settlement to the disabled retirees who are still alive.
Then came a letter signed by half of the U.S. Senate calling on the NFL to force the Washington franchise to change its name, which we won’t dignify by uttering here. Suffice it to say that Goodell’s decision to defend a nasty cultural slur by calling it “an 80-year tradition” is as bad a boneheaded move as his predecessor Pete Rozelle’s choice to let the games go on the weekend after JFK was assassinated. Hey Roger, has it occurred to you that slavery was an “80-year tradition” in 1865 when we finally got rid of it?
And let’s not forget the revelation that some of the hardest hits delivered by NFL stars are taking place in casino elevators and domestic venues, giving new meaning to the term “unsportsmanlike conduct.” [Although, to be fair, we’ll note that the solution to this problem needs to be applied to the lengthy rap sheets of college athletics as well.]
But let’s look at the bright side. From the capital of Big Oil comes news that Houston’s NFL franchise has decided to set an example in the creative application of…wait for it…solar energy. [Editor’s Note: If the greening of Houston surprises you, you didn’t read our annual Rankings Report–the biggest city in Texas is leading U.S. metros with the highest percentage of renewable energy consumption].
The naming rights for Reliant Stadium, home turf of the Houston Texans, recently were sold to energy-sector player NRG. NRG Energy reportedly is still heavily invested in coal and natural gas power plants, but it has seen the handwriting on the wall–NRG is walking the walk with an aggressive transition to green energy. It’s one of the primary developers of two of the biggest solar farms under construction in the U.S., the Agua Caliente and Ivanpah projects in the California desert, both of which received huge Department of Energy subsidies.
Now, NRG has decided to make the newly renamed NRG Stadium a showcase for solar power. According to a recent report in the Houston Chronicle, Texans fans soon will be walking beneath hundreds of solar panels on their way to and from the stadium, which is also is set to become the one of the first NFL venues to use energy-efficient LED lights to illuminate its playing field (the Arizona Cardinals also have switched their field lights to LED).
The Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., the county agency that runs the stadium, unanimously approved a sustainability plan proposed by NRG Energy that calls for installing 700 solar panels above the two pedestrian bridges that cross Kirby Drive, the ticket booths along the south side of the stadium and on the roof of a covered parking lot to be built at Kirby and Murworth Drive, where six of NRG’s eVgo electric-vehicle charging stations also will be installed.
Other NFL stadium owners are queuing up to dress their venues in green as well, including Levi Stadium (the luxurious new digs of the 49ers) and FedEx Stadium (home of the Washington franchise whose name we have trouble pronouncing).
NRG also has taken its green-energy show to Vegas–installing one of the world’s largest rooftop solar installations (a 6.2 MW solar array) at MGM Resorts’ Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
We’re not letting the NFL off the hook for its other infractions, but it says here the nation’s football league is welcome to spike the ball and jump into the crowd for a group hug to celebrate its green-power touchdown.