Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The NFL Embodies Nearly Everything I Loathe About Society Right Now

It’s actually pretty amazing, when I stop to think about it, how a single organization can embody almost everything I hate about society right now in a single, odious jackpot. And yet, the NFL continues to level up this ignominious status. Let’s review:

Misogyny/Tolerance of Domestic Violence & Violence against Women

A detailed analysis of post-2000 data performed in 2014 by FiveThirtyEight shows that although arrest rates among NFL players are low compared to national averages for men of the same age, they soar above the average for similarly-compensated professionals. Domestic violence accounts for 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among NFL players, compared to an estimated 21 percent nationally. And what is the NFL doing about that? Not too much! The NFL is a business, and their employees’ propensity for DV doesn’t bother the NFL or its fans enough for them to do anything about it at all. Generally, the NFL “investigates” these incidents, blames the victim, imposes a cursory suspension, and moves on. A normal employer would be concerned if a large chunk of its workforce was beating up their wives and girlfriends. Not the NFL.

Forced Jingoism

Somewhere along the way, standing for a song and saluting a flag became a more meaningful expression of patriotism and respect for the military than a basic knowledge of American civic and the civil liberties our military is sworn to protect and defend. The NFL has fully bought into hard-right and white bald-eagle goose-stepping brand of neo-fascist jingoism that our current President loves to propagate. Today, the organization announced a new policy mandating that players on the field “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” or risk being fined. The NFL is a private employer and it can do what it wants from a constitutional standpoint. But if a government actor ever did something like this, it would be unconstitutional and un-American AF. Ironic, isn’t it?


Closely related to the above, the NFL’s forced jingoism has a manifest racist undertone. As the artist and activist Bree Newsome said on Twitter today, the NFL’s new policy “is codifying racism into the game of American football to suppress free speech. The NFL—which receives $ to promote the military—is creating a game rule that specifically penalizes Black athletes’ protest of racism & police violence. NFL athletes are majority Black.” She’s right. At the start of the 2014 season, at least, NFL surveys showed that the league is approximately 68% Black. Incidentally, according to 2015 research from the Pew Foundation, the active-duty military that the NFL is valorizing was 40% racial and ethnic minority groups as of 2017. Are they allowed to peacefully protest their government or nah?

Hollow Charitable Gestures as Public Relations Stunting

Who could forget the NFL “Pink October” breast cancer awareness scandal in which the league’s efforts to sell fans their pink merchandise only yielded 8.01% of that money toward cancer research, the equivalent of “couch change teams find after cleaning out their stadium suites,” as Julie DiCaro wrote in Sports Illustrated in 2015. The NFL cares about women’s titties when they’re bouncing on the sidelines and at strip clubs, but not under a microscope for cancer research. As with domestic violence, the NFL’s consideration of women extends only as far as its bottom line.

Terrible Labor Practices/Cover-Ups of Dangerous Working Conditions

By now, everyone knows about the 2017 findings in a Boston University study showing that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is far more prevalent in NFL players (who are subjected to repeated hits to the head) than the general public. The irrefutable conclusion was that football has a big concussion problem, but it’s worse than that. Just like its fellow public health robber barons in the guns and tobacco industry, the NFL worked hard to hide the truth about concussions and brain damage in its work force. NFL-defenders like to rail against the high salaries of the players, but these are economies of scale. Player talent is so valuable because it is rare. Relative to the enormous growth in profits in the NFL and TV contracts, as of 2015, player salaries have not kept pace, because NFL does not revenue share in the way other professional sports, e.g., baseball, do. Yeah, football players make a lot of money for the short period of time that their labor is usable. But the NFL is just another big business that treats its labor like shit.

Glorification of Male Violence

Football is a violent game that promotes and celebrates aggression and violence, things that are already in abundant supply in America. That doesn’t make it too different from, say, boxing; but the NFL is unique in the sheer organized massive scope of its profiteering off violence and the promotion of the worst values in American society.

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