NFL Markets Free Fantasy Contest With Cash Payout, Weekly Video Game Prizes
Legal Sports Report

Groups Call Out NFL For Pushing Fantasy Sports With Prizes To Kids

A pair of non-profit organizations called on the NFL to discontinue marketing a fantasy game with cash prizes to kids because of the possibility of fostering gambling addiction from a young age.

The letters to the NFL about its fantasy game

The National Council on Problem Gambling and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent letters to the NFL renewing their call to stop pushing its “Rush Fantasy” program to children as young as six years old.

The Rush Fantasy program conducts fantasy contests over the course of an NFL season, and offers weekly prizes, in addition to a grand prize of a $5,000 “scholarship” and a trip to the Pro Bowl.

The two non-profit organizations contend that children playing fantasy sports with the incentive of valuable prizes can lead to problem gambling and addiction. The letters can be seen here and here.

It’s not the first time these groups have asked the NFL to tone down its message to children; the CCFC put out a report in January of last year called “OUT OF BOUNDS The NFL’s Intensive Campaign to Target Children.” 

However, with increased focus and scrutiny on fantasy sports in the past six months in states across the country because of the daily version of the game, the NCPG and the CCFC are again calling out the NFL.

What the NCPG and CCFC say

The two groups were unabashed in their criticism of the league.

“The high value of the prizes may send a message to children that playing fantasy sports is a good way to earn money for education,” NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte said. “Even worse, it may encourage children to spend excessive amounts of time trying to win these prizes, thus planting the seeds of addiction.”

While the biggest prize at Rush Fantasy is for winning the seasonlong contest, there are also weekly prizes of XBOX One’s and Madden NFL video games:

NFL Rush Prizes

The groups also cited a 2014 study of college students that found that “fantasy sports participation was correlated with gambling-related problems.”

“It’s unconscionable that the NFL is encouraging children as young as six to have a financial stake in the outcome of its games,” said Josh Golin, executive director of CCFC. “This type of marketing has no place on a website or app for kids, and it’s particularly egregious that the league enlists teachers and schools in its efforts to get children hooked on fantasy sports.”

The NFL fantasy curriculum

According to the NCPG and CCFC, the NFL contracts with Young Minds Inspired, an “educational marketing agency,” to promote its fantasy game.

From a press release from the two groups:

NFL Rush Fantasy—Learn, Play, Score! is a math and language arts curriculum centered entirely on NFL fantasy football, including activity sheets and a teacher’s guide. Students are required to register for the NFL’s fantasy football game in order to access lesson materials and complete assignments. CCFC’s letter to the NFL says, “Educators should not be called upon to assist the NFL in promoting an activity which is potentially harmful and addictive when engaged in by children.”

The NFL told the Associated Press that it stopped offering the curriculum after the 2014 season but it can still be easily found on the internet:

NFL fantasy curriculum

The program was also marketed to children via the SIKids.com website.

The NFL’s response, and DFS

Legal Sports Report reached out to the NFL for comment on Tuesday about its Rush Fantasy program in advance of the letters being formally sent, but received no response.

The Associated Press did hear from NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy:

Of concerns about the contest, McCarthy said parents had to provide consent before their children could play the games.

He also maintained that the contest, which just completed its seventh year, is more like the free, season-long fantasy sports games than the daily versions that have increasingly come under scrutiny from policymakers.

Of course, because the contests also have weekly prizes, it’s difficult to see how that distinction can be made. The league has publicly maintained that DFS is not gambling and is a game of skill.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in the past, has downplayed the connection between financial reward and fantasy football.

The NFL markets fantasy football heavily to everyone, not just kids. That has extended to daily fantasy with sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, as almost every team in the league has a deal with one of the two DFS operators.

The latest comments from McCarthy continue a recent trend of the NFL trying to differentiate seasonlong fantasy from DFS.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.