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Why football hasn’t had a presence on Black Friday until now

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Playing football on Black Friday, a day known for its retail frenzy and sales, has been uncharted territory in the sporting world for quite some time. Despite the sport’s popularity and the day’s cultural significance, football games on Black Friday haven’t seen the light of day.

So, why hasn’t this tradition taken off until now?

Football on field

On Thanksgiving weekend, long-standing football games took precedence, with iconic college rivalries and NFL games marking this period. Adding Black Friday fixtures might have disrupted these well-established traditions. (Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

1. Competition with other sports and traditions

Historically, Black Friday has stood as a day reserved for shopping and the kickoff of the holiday spending frenzy. 

In the world of sports, college football has traditionally taken center stage during the weekend of Thanksgiving, overshadowing other sports. With the NBA and NHL seasons also in full swing, along with college basketball tournaments, the NFL faced stiff competition for viewership.

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2. Scheduling challenges

For many years, the scheduling complexities surrounding college and professional football leagues posed significant challenges. The nature of teams’ fixed schedules and prior commitments posed considerable challenges, limiting the flexibility to organize match ups on Black Friday.

The Thanksgiving weekend already has a number of college football rivalries, creating a crowded slate of games that don’t leave much room for Black Friday fixtures. This has been a major factor in the historical absence of football on Black Friday, with the existing gridlock of games impeding the sport from making its mark on this shopping-centric day.

3. Balancing fan interests and traditions

Within the realm of football, particularly in college leagues, tradition holds a hallowed place. The revered tradition of Thanksgiving Day games is a longstanding tradition of the sport. The idea of introducing games on Black Friday carried the weight of potentially disrupting or undermining these traditions.

The hesitance to alter these historical schedules was not merely a matter of logistics; it revolved around preserving the sanctity and significance of long-standing traditions, the essence of what made Thanksgiving football an integral part of American sports culture. Leagues were mindful of the delicate balance between innovation and respecting the time-honored customs that had been woven into the fabric of the sport.

4. Evolving television and media dynamics

Media and television rights have played a significant role in sports scheduling in recent years. Networks have already secured commitments to televise specific games and events over Thanksgiving weekend, making it challenging to slot additional games on Black Friday.

The established slate of Thanksgiving weekend games, with its loyal audience and anticipated match ups, is seen as a pinnacle event in the eyes of broadcasters, making them cautious about diverting attention away from these clashes. 

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This web of television rights, audience engagement and contractual commitments shaped the reluctance to schedule football games on Black Friday.

5. Shifts in consumer behavior and sports entertainment

The evolution of consumer behavior also influenced the consideration of playing football on Black Friday. The surging trend of online shopping and alternative entertainment options gradually eroded the once-hefty appeal of bustling physical stores on this specific day.

Despite these obstacles, recent years have seen a shift in perspective. Leagues and sports associations have started recognizing the untapped potential of Black Friday as a day for football. There’s a growing understanding that sports fans, while interested in shopping deals, also crave entertainment and sports engagement during this holiday period.

While football on Black Friday may have been a rarity in the past due to scheduling challenges, traditions and media dynamics, there’s an obvious shift in the landscape. With changing consumer behaviors, evolving entertainment preferences and a willingness to explore new opportunities, football’s absence on Black Friday might become a thing of the past.

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Leagues are gradually recognizing the potential of this day as an additional avenue for engaging fans and offering thrilling sporting action in the holiday season.


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