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When will the NFL sell ads for game jerseys?

Mike Florio and Chris Simms analyze if it makes sense for the NFL to use a draft lottery system like the NBA and outline potential ways to eliminate concerns for tanking.

As Mark Cuban said of the NFL 10 years ago, pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. Still, the NFL has resisted the selling of game-jersey ads for products like, for example, slaughtered hogs ground into pinkish tubes and served on a bun.

Fourteen years after the NFL gave the green light to sponsor patches on practice jerseys, the NFL has not crossed the ad-revenue Rubicon of putting product patches on jerseys.

Of course, there are already three ads on every jersey. One, the Nike logo. Two, any team logos. Three, the NFL shield. But those are organic, not a right-turn of Eat at Joe’s or whatever a team could sell for that space.

Terry Lefton of Sports Business Journal explored the dynamic in a Wednesday newsletter. Other leagues have warmed to the idea of putting ads on game uniforms, and Lefton estimates that the NFL could generate four or five times the amount that the lesser sports realize.

An unnamed long-time NFL team president predicted it won’t happen on the current Commissioner’s watch.

“You tell me the year Roger Goodell’s contract ends and that’s the year ad patches will be allowed in this league,” the source told Lefton. “So, not never, but close to that. The bigger question is when and if this does happen, will it be a league asset or a team asset?”

Lefton suggests that the change wouldn’t happen under the current TV deals, since broadcasters would bristle at the images they purchase being infiltrated by companies that perhaps don’t sponsor the network televising a game. And while Lefton notes that the current deals run through 2033, the owners have the ability to pull the plug before the end of the decade.

Whenever it happens, the teams and the leagues and the broadcast partners will want a taste. I’ve long believed that the NFL could put a green-screen decal on every helmet, allowing a rotation of product logos to be superimposed within the TV broadcasts. That would presumably be money the networks keep, with the ability to sell the ad inventory making the broadcast rights even more valuable.

Every year, it’s a lost revenue opportunity for the NFL. The league surely wishes it had embraced sponsors from the get go, making the presence of names and logos as natural as it is for sports like auto racing.

It seems inevitable. Just like the arrival of naming-rights deals for stadiums, fans would react to ads on game uniforms by huffing and puffing -- and ultimately not blowing down their own house of football enjoyment.