I Owe it All to Hip Hop

By Brett Germani In the wake of George Floyd’s brutal murder, NFL players were angered by Commissioner Roger Goodell’s lukewarm statement of support for the black community, so they created a video to demand the NFL do more to condemn racism and support equality. “I am George Floyd,” said DeAndre Hopkins. “I am Ahmaud Arberry,” said Eric Andres. “I am Tamir Rice,” said Patrick Mahomes. “We assert our right to peacefully protest,” 18 black players said in unison, staring stone faced into the camera. They continued: “We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. “We the National Football League admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. “We the National Football League believe Black Lives Matter.” The video went viral within moments of its release on June 5. As the social media hits shot through the roof, the smile on Eddie Capobianco’s bearded face grew bigger and bigger. This video and the NFL’s response to it was the most rewarding achievement of Eddie’s life, both personally and professionally. As vice president of influencer marketing for the NFL, Eddie was ecstatic when Goodell quickly responded with a video admitting the NFL had been wrong in not listening to its players earlier and encouraging all to speak out and peacefully protest. Goodell vowed to work with players who raised their voices and others to champion social justice. With that, Eddie and his team quickly got to work to put the NFL on the right side of history. Eddie’s team, which is about 50 percent Black, proudly supported the protest video that the players created. But the work they did following Goodell’s statement and the work that they continue to do is so much more important. It is about making change in the NFL and society. “We are going to continue to push,” said Eddie, his brown eyes unblinking and his soft voice steady. “No matter your color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc., we all deserve to be treated equally. And while I’m in a position of influence, I will continue to work on campaigns that spread love and kindness.” The NFL has committed to spend $100 million on various social justice initiatives over the next 10 years, and Eddie’s team is devoted to help execute them. Many have already begun, such as Inspire Change, which focuses on four priority areas: Education, Economic advancement, Police & Community relations, and Criminal justice reform. These are just a few of the many projects Eddie’s team is working on. His team is charged with making the NFL more relevant to youth and increasing viewership in the 12-24 demographic. Leading this team is Eddie’s dream job and a culmination of all his passions: social justice, football and hip hop. Eddie’s two loves growing up in Brooklyn, NY, and California were rap music and playing football. His father, who was born in Italy, and his mother, who was born in Nicaragua, raised him and his sister to value the perspectives of others. He spent a lot of time in San Francisco and NYC growing up, which taught him to appreciate all walks of life. His hard work in high school earned him an academic scholarship to USC, where he played football for the Trojans. An injury cut his college football career short, but his degree in music business, friendly demeanor and multicultural background powered his successful career in marketing. “If you simplify it, I got to being where I am by being a genuinely friendly guy who loves rap music,” Eddie said with a laugh. Throughout his career, he’s collaborated with many celebrities, such as Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott and The Weeknd. He connects with people by asking them about what they like and what’s interesting and important to them. It’s essential to be authentic, not transactional, Eddie said. In a Sportico article from Oct. 21, 2020, Eddie explained how the NFL focuses on authenticity as it continues expanding its network of influencers and collaborating with musicians, gamers, fitness personalities and others relevant to Millennials. “We just call them new friendships,” Eddie said in the article titled “NFL Turns to Digital Influencers in Fight to Win Over Young Fans.” One such collaboration that boosted his career tremendously was with Chance the Rapper. Prior to joining the NFL, Eddie worked for New Era headwear. In that role, he met Chance and they made a hat together. The iconic hat with the number 3 embroidered on the front — it sold like crazy. “Working with guys like that really accelerated my career because people know that I understand who is relevant,” Eddie explained. Soon after, the NFL came calling. In 2018, Eddie became a VP charged with making the NFL relevant to a young demographic. The 40 year old keeps his finger on the pulse of this demographic by staffing his team with many young people and by talking with youth about what music they listen to, who they follow and what platforms they use. And it does not hurt that he loves rap music and is a creature of pop culture, from his spotless Nikes to his hoodies. “I owe it all to hip hop,” Eddie said, only half jokingly. In the two years since Eddie was hired and created this new team, the NFL viewership by Millennials has increased and youth are more engaged with the NFL brand, which has a vast social media reach, including 20 million followers on Instagram. Not only is he happy that his team has made progress on their main goal of connecting with youth, he’s also thrilled that his job affords him some very exciting opportunities, such as helping to line up talent for half time shows, making videos with some of his NFL heroes and rubbing elbows with celebrities. “It’s neat to be around people who are in the limelight and get to know them more,” Eddie said. When Eddie is not Zooming and talking with NFL execs and pop culture icons, he likes to play with his two dogs, Jimmy and Joe. A San Francisco 49ers fan, Eddie named his sheep dogs after Jimmy Garopalo and Joe Montana. And on Sundays, of course, he is surrounded not only by his dogs, but also many screens. He has the TV on ESPN, and, on his phone, he is glued to an app that streams all the NFL games. He is watching all the news and games, not only to see how he is doing in his four Fantasy Football leagues, but also for sheer enjoyment and, well, it’s part of the job…his dream job. Eddie is thankful for having the opportunity to do what he loves and make a difference. He credits his parents and his 10th grade teacher, Mr. Murphy, for helping him get to where he is now. “At that time, I was an average student, but because he showed interest in my schoolwork and my future, it ignited me,” Eddie recalled. “I went from being ranked 358 to finishing 3 in my class, with academic scholarship offers from USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, Penn State, NYU, Cal Berkeley etc.” This experience ignited Eddie’s passion for uplifting others. He is very excited about the artist replay project his team is working on now. Through this project, the NFL shares the work and bios of up and coming artists across the NFL’s social media platforms. “Some of these artists flip out,” Eddie said. “They say ‘Holy cow, the NFL is talking about me and sharing me to 19 million people.’ The whole idea is paying it forward, getting their art out there and hopefully that helps grow their careers.” With millions of people following the NFL on social, and millions of fans watching games, the NFL has an opportunity to help a lot of people, Eddie noted. “When you are in a position of influence, if you can figure out how to help out other people, that’s important.”