Why I Have to Quit the NFL (for a while)

No More NFLIt’s time for me to quit the NFL. I’m gone until Commissioner Roger Goodell steps down. Any organization which is so unwilling to repudiate a culture of family abuse doesn’t deserve our money. I’m willing to accept a fair amount of dumb behavior from men in their twenties. We all did dumb stuff at that age, we made it right as best we could, we learned from it, and we went on to lead positive lives. But the NFL, led by the Roger Goodell, refuses to accept that they have a significant role in shaping important discussions in the US.

I like football.

I like it a lot. These are exceptional athletes, doing exceptional things, for our enjoyment. They are amply rewarded for their excellence, and they earn every dollar. I also know that the vast majority of NFL players are good men. I’ve known several NFL players, and these guys are all aware of their role in the community. They know they have been given much, and they are happy for the chance to give back.

I also know that the NFL is not the only sport which fights the personal conduct battle. The top soccer leagues in Europe are in the midst of a battle with racism and anti-Semitism that, given the globalization of soccer in 2014, leaves me baffled. Pro cycling, another sport which generates huge sponsorship dollars, still battles against performance enhancing drugs. Here at home, boxing champ Floyd Mayweather, Jr., a well-known abuser of wives, partners, and children, when asked about his pattern of behavior by Rachel Nichols, stated proudly, “You ain’t got no photos, you ain’t got no proof.” But soccer and bicycle racing are niche sports in the US, and the average American stopped watching boxing sometime between the retirements of Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard, and the shitstorm that was Mike Tyson.

But the NFL –

  • Ray Rice beats his wife unconscious in an elevator and is suspended for 2 games. This was later increased to an indefinite suspension, but only when TMZ investigated the incident more diligently than local police or the NFL.
  • Carolina Panthers star defensive end Greg Hardy, convicted on two counts of spousal abuse, continues to play whilst out on appeal. (He was deactivated by his head coach for Sundays game)
  • San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested for beating his ten weeks pregnant fiancée. He continues to play while awaiting trial.
  • Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beat his four year old with a stick on his naked leg, buttocks, and scrotum so severely that the child bled. Fortunately, he has been suspended. Check out the photos of the boy here. Don’t forget, Peterson had a 2 year old son from another relationship murdered when the mother’s boyfriend beat the child to death.
  • In 2012, Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend (the mother of his daughter) and then committed suicide.

Every NFL team (53 men are on the active roster) has at least one player in serious legal trouble. Check out this interactive. It is appalling. We all know that abuse is not the norm among families in the NFL. But we also know that abuse is a too-common problem in our society as a whole. We also know that the NFL is in a unique position to set an example.

NFL football dominates our national conversation. Retired NBA star and current commentator Charles Barkley once stated “I ain’t no role model. Parents should be role models.” And that, Sir Charles, may be true, but it’s not how the world works. Not in the NBA, and not in the NFL.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

NFL talk rules. Everywhere and all the time. Our politicians invoke football at every opportunity. Our TV news and sports and weather. Our newspapers. On all manner of radio shows.

How pervasive is the NFL and their ubiquitous shield? A completely unscientific poll I conducted on my Facebook page is telling. My FB friends range in age from 14 to 83. I asked the question: Do you, or any of the people in your home, own any pieces of NFL-logoed gear. Out of 54 respondents, 40 said yes. Three-quarters of my ‘friends’ own NFL stuff. Even a couple of my mates in Australia.

According to USA Today, the average NFL team is now worth $1.43 billion dollars. There are 32 teams. The NFL; not the individual teams, merely the league, had revenues in excess of $10 billion dollars last year. If the NFL were a country, its revenues just about equal the GDP of Iceland.

Roger Goodell, the man at the helm of this massive and unwieldy corporation, works for 32 often batcrap crazy billionaires. Yet, every corporation has someone at the apex who sets the corporate tone. Goodell is the man who consistently enables these heinous player behaviors. In addition, his unwillingness to take a hard line in bargaining with the nearly-as-culpable NFL Players Association makes him doubly guilty. It’s time for Roger to step aside. It is time for a leader who understands that big time athletics and reasonable human conduct are not mutually exclusive.

You want Goodell gone? You sick of large men who beat the crap out of their wives and children and partners and then have their boss turn a blind eye? Then vote with your dollars and your social media status. Go to your favorite team’s Facebook page and let them know that you won’t buy another $100 dollar jersey. You won’t buy the $40.00 t-shirts. You will replace your Green Bay Packer toilet seat cover with one from Kohler and the Denver Bronco lunchbox you promised your daughter will be replaced by a Star Wars box.

Take a stand. Follow the big money and let the NFL’s key advertisers in your area know that you’re ticked that Chevy/Gatorade/Johnsonville Brat/Miller Beer continue to support a $50 billion dollar corporation that tolerates wives being knocked unconscious and dragged across a hallway. Let them know that a 220 lb man who beats a 40 lb toddler until bloody disgusts you.

Share those thoughts with advertisers on Twitter with the tag #GoodellMustGo.

Crazy, isn’t it, that I even bother? But to paraphrase Rick Blaine in Casablanca, “I know my little protest don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…” But maybe, just maybe, a slighter bigger protest might rattle someone’s cage towards a kinder world.

So, that’s why I quitting the NFL for a while. I’ll be back. The pull of the game is strong, my admiration for the play on the field undimmed. (Heck, I still read Instant Replay every August, as training camps open.) I’m not sure what I’ll do in the car during drive-time without sports talk radio. Maybe I’ll brush up on my Spanish. But my disgust over the abuse is complete. I gotta go.

 

 

Comments

The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at http://dstan58.blogspot.com/

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Comments

  1. I don’t know if you’re a fan of Bill Simmons, but here’s the article he wrote about Goodell needing to be fired: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/roger-goodell-need-to-step-down/

  2. Also forgot to mention: Adrian Peterson was suspended but after missing only one game, he was reinstated this morning and is expected to play in week 3. http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11531210/minnesota-vikings-say-adrian-peterson-likely-play-week-3

  3. I read the Grantland piece several hours after I wrote mine. And thanks for the update on AP’s status. I wrote this piece Saturday and Sunday, so it’s not up-to-date.

  4. I think at some point we have realize just the type of parents are being by supporting an organization that is basically saying that abusing women and children is OK. We are telling our kids that it is alright to do these things if we buy tickets, buy jerseys, and let alone even watch the NFL on a regular basis.

    I am all for taking a stand against the NFL and personally feel like the NFL is now too big for themselves. The recent troubles that players are having just evidence of that.

  5. I hear ya. I agree, it’s pretty bad. But I’m not ready to quit the NFL quite yet. But I do think they need to do something to send a very strong message to these guys that if they behave poorly in this way, they won’t play. Period.

  6. don says:

    Well said, David! Great post. Your little protest along with thousands more surely can have an affect. We just have to stick with it. I’m not suggesting that people should lose their jobs forever when they make mistakes, but there needs to be some sort of repercussion that will incentivize not making terrible decisions, many that seem to involve unnecessary violence off the field. It’s a sick culture, football, but they must learn to keep that between the lines.

  7. UPDATE: Radisson Hotels has yanked its sponsorship of the Vikings. The governor of Minnesota expressed his outrage that Peterson was reinstated. Anhauser-Busch and Pepsi-cola issued letters stating their opposition to the Peterson reinstatement and stated that they might need to re-consider their sponsorship with the NFL. Castrol Motor oil yanked its sponsorship, as did Special Olympics and Mylan. Twin Cities Nike stores pulled Peterson jerseys from their shelves. Consequently, the Vikings re-suspended Peterson. Well done. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/adrian-peterson-banned-by-minnesota-vikings-from-all-team-activities/

  8. Can I just walk away? My TV is hidden in the garage, yet I still feel like a junky consuming my violence hidden away, worried I inevitably will bring it to interactions with my family. The thrill of the gladiator is so pure; the camaraderie of the combatants so compelling, that I yearn for the next opportunity to lose myself in the storyline of the game. Game! Ha, I Laugh Out Loud at the notion this is a child’s thing. It is war. Battles occur on every ‘play’. I thought I’d be forced to stop watching after the revelation of the cover up concerning concussions, which has direct ties to violence (domestic and otherwise) yet I’ve continued to watch. I hope to find your strength. We should all be so lucky as to be able to turn and walk away…and mutter ‘here’s looking at you, kid.’

This is what I think...

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