The Gridiron and the Gray Flannel Suit: NFL Football and the Modern U.S. Workplace

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Examining three critical periods of transformation in the history of professional football in the United States, this article demonstrates the centrality of the workplace to the development of the National Football League (NFL). The article argues that the NFL originated in the welfare capitalism of the early 1920s; that mass-mediated narratives about corporate management drove pro football’s coming-of-age in the 1950s and 1960s; and that fantasy football—the NFL’s most distinctive new form of spectatorship in the age of digital capitalism—positioned fans as imaginary managers of human capital. Taken together, these three pivotal moments demonstrate the inextricable links between changes in professional sports and transformations in the organization of work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-148
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Sport and Social Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • corporate culture
  • fantasy sports
  • football
  • labor
  • welfare capitalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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