In recent years, the NFL has made a concerted effort to connect with a broader (and younger) fanbase, finally taking steps to embrace hip-hop and Black culture after taking plenty of criticism over the past decade. Its most recent Super Bowl Halftime Show featuring Dr. Dre and friends won three Emmy awards, while the NFL office says it didn’t mind Eminem kneeling as an acknowledgment of Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and subsequent blackballing by the league.
However, that doesn’t mean that the NFL, which has traditionally skewed older and much, well, whiter, has completely figured out how to connect to audiences raised on rap. Case in point: The Atlanta Falcons’ “Rise Up” season promo, which the team debuted today on social media. The musical clip inexplicably features actor-singer Rotimi crooning from a throne while wearing a Younghoe Koo jersey. Fans on Twitter were not impressed, calling out the team for not featuring any of the dozens of prominent Black artists who call the ATL home (for instance: Gucci Mane, Future, Latto, Lil Baby, and Migos, just off the top of my head). As Omeretta The Great might say, “That is not Atlanta.”
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 9, 2022
Artists got in on the act, too. “I’m right here yall,” wrote JID, who just released his new album The Forever Story to both critical acclaim and impressive commercial success. “y y’all put rotimi in the line of fire like dat?” asked 6lack, who, like JID (his bandmate in Spillage Village), is a homegrown ATLien.
I’m right here yall
— (J.I.D) (@JIDsv) September 9, 2022
y y’all put rotimi in the line of fire like dat
— black (@6LACK) September 9, 2022
Obviously, Rotimi’s background was a sticking point for fans — he’s from New Jersey, and didn’t even go to school in Atlanta, opting for an education from Northwestern — but likely so too was the general presentation. The song features a relatively generic horn-backed beat that sounds about two decades out of date to be the contemporary sound the marketing team clearly wanted.
It’s probably already too late for the Falcons to change things up now, but it’s especially sad that an NFL team hasn’t learned from the rich history around it. In 2018, with the Super Bowl in Atlanta, fans booed the league’s halftime performer pick, Maroon 5, while nearly every peripheral event in the city featured an artist that should have been considered first. Hopefully, the team and the league can avoid too many more stumbles like this in the future — pun 100 percent intended. See more responses below.
thugger and gunna didn’t gonna jail for y’all to put out this bullshit https://t.co/ml1gek3Mo4
— Joe Ali (@JoeAli) September 9, 2022
— Alexander Yamilton (@MsAshleySmiles) September 9, 2022
I know we ain’t making the playoffs just from this post alone https://t.co/IIwXOpnWSp
— BASED SAVAGE (@crackcobain__) September 9, 2022
— Joshua Gresham aka “Gresh” (@JoshGreshamORG) September 9, 2022
They got somebody from Hit Row to make this song I’m crying https://t.co/aopmsX19fw
— ‘ (@MFKAOZ) September 9, 2022
Y’all coulda recorded Thug in his cell and it woulda been better than this https://t.co/7Jh7vDubw2
— Rico (@RicoBanned) September 9, 2022