Groups Ask NFL To Shut Down Its Pre-Teen Fantasy Football Program

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 1.51.33 PMWhile daily fantasy sports [DFS] sites like FanDuel and DraftKings are in the spotlight over whether or not they violate state anti-gambling laws, those sites are intended only for adults. But the NFL also runs a fantasy football site that is targeted directly at youngsters, which some consumer advocates say is just prepping these kids for a life of wagering money on sports.

NFL Rush Fantasy is an online fantasy football contest where the players must be between the ages of 6 and 12. It doesn’t just allow youngsters to build fantasy teams using players from real NFL franchises, it also rewards the best fantasy players with prizes like scholarships, trips to the Pro Bowl, and video game consoles.

Unlike the adults-only fantasy sites, players don’t need to pay any sort of entry fee for NFL Rush Fantasy, but some still contend that this system of awarding prizes plants the seeds for these kids to eventually risk real money.

In a letter [PDF] to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the National Council on Problem Gaming argue that NFL Rush Fantasy “has the trappings of DFS —including frequent contests requiring constant attention to lineups and the incentive of valuable prizes.”

The groups says the child-targeted contests are “essentially daily fantasy games,” and contend that “By providing these valuable incentives, the NFL is indoctrinating children into engaging in fantasy sports with a financial stake in the outcome. This exposes them, and our communities, to the risks of gambling problems.”

While the NFL-operated contests claim to require parental permission, the letter notes just how easy it is for a player to fake this permission.

“Registrants are asked to provide the email address of a parent, so the NFL can verify age and permission for the child to play. But a child can easily provide some other email address, so that they or a friend can send the purported permission, thereby circumventing the parental approval,” reads the letter.

The groups also take issue with an NFL-backed in-school program that uses fantasy football as a teaching tool.

“The lessons are based entirely on fantasy football statistics and calculating fantasy points earned in certain situations,” reads the letter. “There is not a word about the ways that the actual game of football might illustrate arithmetic problems. It is all about the points one earns for their fantasy team — the means to winning the prizes which the NFL dangles in its Rush Fantasy game, and the stock and trade of the adult player who spends and usually loses large sums of money on DFS sites.”

In addition to using fantasy sports to illustrate math and language arts lessons, the “NFL Rush Fantasy — Learn, Play, Score!” curriculum requires students to register with NFL Rush.

“Encouraging such activity in the classroom gives the imprimatur of the school in the eyes of impressionable young minds,” argue the groups, who are calling on the NFL to put and end to the programs. “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.”