The NFL is wrong a lot of the time. From faulty concussion protocols to rampant enabling of harassment and domestic violence, all the way to snubbing Colin Kaepernick and shameless pandering of racial equality, one could say the NFL is a league that cannot read the room. So it was no surprise when Hispanic Heritage Month rolled in, the NFL once again found a way to completely undermine the point of its own campaign.
At the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, the NFL released a revamped version of its classic logo featuring an electric yellow “eñe” drawn over the “N” in the lettering. The campaign was titled “Por La Cultura,” which translates to “For the Culture” — as if the NFL is nobly running this campaign for Hispanic Heritage out of the goodness of its heart and not for the good publicity and potential economic opportunity from gratifying Hispanic fans.
The NFL chose to incorporate the letter “ñ” into the logo because it’s come to be representative of the Spanish language and consequently Hispanic and Latine culture. However, the “ÑFL” reads less like a genuine appreciation of that culture and more like a soulless corporate virtue signaling campaign.
“This shield integrates an unmistakable Latin flavor and is fundamental to our always-on, 365 day initiative,” reads the organization’s tweet launching the campaign. “The electric brush stroke of the ‘eñe’ is filled with an infectious personality that is carried out through the rest of the look & feel.”
There appears to be a complete lack of awareness from the NFL on this marketing campaign. It reads like the organization is only using the “eñe” for its aesthetic qualities, a seeming lack of empathy (and common sense) regarding the cultural significance it carries.
The NFL has since received harsh criticism from social media and many news outlets. American writer and immigration rights activist Julissa Natzely Arce Raya emphasized the lack of research and basic knowledge of the Spanish language regarding the NFL’s use of the “eñe.”
“This is embarrassing,” Arce tweeted. “There is no eñe in the (word) nacional. We don’t say Eñe F L we say NFL… Apologize.”
Other critics pointed out that the NFL’s use of the “eñe” ignores the cultural significance of the letter. It’s a symbol used by organizations like the Instituto Cervantes and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. It’s a letter that transcends multiple languages, multiple dialects and multiple countries.
Colombian Nobel Prize winning writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez said it best: “The ‘Ñ’ is not an archaeological piece of junk, but just the opposite: a cultural leap of a Romance language that left the others behind in expressing with only one letter a sound that other languages continue to express with two.”
The letter has become a symbol of the cultural issues regarding erasure and whitewashing, issues perpetuated by hegemonic structures of power.
The NFL can claim its logo is a good-natured gesture towards supporting Hispanic communities, but it lacks any acknowledgement of the “eñe’s” rich cultural history. What should have been a heartwarming celebration of the league’s Latine players has quickly become a disposable meaningless Twitter meme, completely undermining the important initiative pledges the NFL has made.