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Maybe It's Time to Boycott the N.F.L.

Updated on June 15, 2015

Maybe it's time to boycott the N.F.L

Maybe it’s time to boycott the N.F.L. OK--that's an exaggeration. We all know that will never happen. Football has become the biggest and most popular sport in America, by far. It now rakes in $10 billion a year, with huge profit margins, making 32 already rich men even richer. If you listen to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league is on track to take in $25 billion by the year 2027. The owners are thrilled! But there just might be a dark side to all this elation; all this monetary growth. Some real problems exist behind the gigantic numbers. And it starts with what is happening to the gigantic men who wear the numbers.

On September 12, an article appeared in the New York Times stating that the N.F.L. now admits that at least one in three of its players will develop long-term cognitive problems once they retire. Remarkably, this is the first time the N.F.L. admitted such a thing. But this is not news to the poor retired players who have been fighting severe bouts of depression, losing concentration and their memories, not to mention the severe headaches they wake up to every morning. These are symptoms the N.F.L. refused to see, or wouldn’t acknowledge, or turned a blind eye to. They let the old warriors, the ones who put their bodies on the line to make the game what it is today, deal with theses debilitating issues on on their own. The N.F.L. has a brand to protect after all. Only after it was sued by a group of former players did it do something about it. And what did it do? It eventually settled with this group for $675 million over the players lifetimes to cover injuries and diseases linked to head trauma that the players sustained during their careers. $675 million!? That's 6.75% of the revenue the owners of these franchises make in a single year! The judge hearing this case wisely put aside this dubious settlement, doubting that it was sufficient to cover the costs of all the medical claims that will be made in the future. She made both parties come back with more detailed projections to back up their numbers.

It is now indisputable that all the head banging play after play, has taken a toll on these once indestructible supermen. And now, football players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger, and it seems obvious to me, that these younger players’ bodies and brains will take an even bigger toll in the future, despite all the rule changes that were made to protect the players. You know, the ones that the old school, hard-nosed football fan says is turning “his league”, “his game”, into one made for “sissies”. Listen to sports talk shows, and you’d think that because of the rule changes, the players should be wearing skirts! I guess these fans, so full of machismo, don’t know that some former players, including Junior Seau, Andre Waters, and Dave Duerson, killed themselves, most likely due to the severe brain injuries suffered while playing this he-man's game.

The N.F.L.’s history of dealing with chronic problems of their former employees is embarrassing. It routinely and continually denied that players were getting concussions severe enough, or often enough, to cause brain damage. The league set up bogus committees to deal with these "supposed" problems. They hired their own doctors to support their findings, while at the same time undermined the findings of independent doctors and other advocates who claimed that players were developing brain damage. These doctors and advocacy groups who had the guts to bang heads with the powerful N.F.L. were bullied by the league, had their reports suppressed, and made out to be a bunch of hysterics. But the evidence was visible for many years. All the league had to do was open its eyes. All it had to do was look at Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler center, who after he retired went on a downward spiral of homelessness, depression, bankruptcy, and finally death, all most likely due to brain damage suffered during his many years as an N.F.L. player. But the N.F.L. couldn't be bothered. They were making too much money. The fan base was getting bigger every year. The value of their franchises was tripling. Nobody wanted to say anything that might spoil the fun.

And now all the brouhaha over the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. Sure, we all know now that he battered his then fiance, with a punch that knocked her unconscious. Then he dragged her listless body out of the elevator into the hallway, kicked her, stepped on her, didn’t even bother to pull her dress down over her exposed behind. Before the recent TMZ video was released, Roger Goodell suspended him for two games. After the video, he suspended Rice indefinitely, and the team he played for, the Baltimore Ravens released him. Strange timing don’t you think? The N.F.L. knew nothing about this video? This big powerful business worth billions of dollars does not have the ability to find a video that TMZ—a gossip website easily found? Does anyone really believe this?

Let’s judge the NFL for what it really is. A great game? Sure; that’s what the majority of Americans think. But it also an insulated rich man’s club, that goes about its business without following laws, rules, and regulations that most human beings and corporations have to follow. This is a business where 33% of their employees will develop brain damage sustained during their employment! I run a business, albeit a small one, but if 33% of my employees developed brain damage while on the job, I'm sure I would be held, at least, somewhat responsible. But the N.F.L. seems to make its own rules and only decides to punish or act when the public outcry gets too strong. And then, it is usually, too little and too late. But that doesn’t stop them from raking in tons of money. Maybe it is time to boycott the N.F.L.

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