By Matthew DeForest, Nov. 9, 2021
I am a massive football fan. Every Sunday I sit down and get ready to scream and yell while riding whatever emotional rollercoaster that the Bills decide to put me on that week. I enjoy it all, from the spectacle of a Hail Mary pass to the absolute drama of missing a chip shot field goal.
Beside the games it seems like there is a different type of spectacle in the National Football League every week: the off-field controversy. Including but not limited to domestic violence, racism and criminal activities involving anyone from players all the way up to the owners. Time and again the NFL fails to properly deal with these controversies, and I believe the NFL should uphold a zero-tolerance policy rather than one driven by profit margin.
Most recently, the Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden was exposed for emails he sent containing racist and homophobic language. Before that, Tyreek Hill, the Kansas City Chiefs star wide receiver, was under investigation for comments he made toward his ex-girlfriend that she and their child should be afraid of him. This was in addition to past allegations of physical abuse while she was pregnant.
Gruden resigned by force from his position as head coach of the Raiders. Hill, on the other hand, is still playing in the NFL for millions of dollars. Both individuals should never step foot on the field again.
Even worse, Gruden’s emails were found while the NFL was investigating over 650,000 internal emails between the league and the then Washington Redskins organization. Yet, the NFL would have us believe that no other current NFL employees have been implicated in any misconduct due to those emails. There have also been no consequences faced by current Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder, who has been accused of cultivating a toxic work environment. The NFL has refused to release the findings of its internal investigation into the Washington Football Team.
To me, it seems like a classic case of protecting profits. Gruden was a huge figure in football, but he was only one head coach and the NFL’s bottom line isn’t much affected by his departure. Hill, on the other hand, is a massive star and a top 10 wide receiver. A bonafide superstar, he is a player that people tune into games to watch. That makes him untouchable, lest the viewership and profits of the NFL be harmed. Equally, Snyder is an owner and forcing him to sell could cause unpredictable financial chaos.
The NFL is afraid of bad pressure on these issues but they are even more afraid of losing the over $12.2 billion they made in 2020, according to business data tracker Statista. This staggering financial success is precisely why we see disciplinary cherrypicking within the NFL.
Proof of this profit motivation is rampant nd those that suffer the most are us: the fans. We all love watching superhuman athletes compete on the field. We love when our favorite players and teams support charities to end childhood cancer and hunger. However, when you sit down this Thanksgiving to watch football remember that the NFL and the teams are profit-motivated entities.
NFL fans are a diverse set of people, ranging from Democrat to Republican and Christian to Muslim, but regardless of our beliefs none of us want the money we spend on tickets and jerseys to support a domestic abuser or a racist.
One surefire way to combat the toxic coaches and executives that are present in the NFL would be to garner support for the player’s union. The NFL has historically had a weak player’s union. We as fans can use platforms such as social media to champion the voices of players and give them the decision-making power they need to combat racism, sexism and homophobia that they may experience from coaches and executives, or from their fellow players.
The NFL may not be evil, but it is performative. The rules only apply when it is convenient for them to apply. As fans, we must demand consistency, transparency and morality in how the NFL addresses substance abuse, racism, domestic violence, crime and more with regards to its employees and players. Use social media, write letters to the Commissioner’s office or team executives and support investigative journalism like work that was done in exposing Jon Gruden.
We, the fans, have the power to change our favorite sport for the better.
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