The Case Against The NFL

The National Football League is like cultural smog. We don't really notice it, but it's everywhere, and we all breathe it in without even realizing how it's slowly destroying us from within. Sound like hyperbole? Maybe. But while the NFL might not be quite as corrupt as their overseas cousin, FIFA, there's still a very high cost being paid every time you sit down on the couch to enjoy a football game. Here's a look at why next fall, you might want to consider spending your Sunday afternoons outside getting some fresh air instead.


Let's be clear right up front: as long as we continue to support a sport that knowingly injures, maims, and kills the people participating in it, we as fans are also culpable. Yes, injuries have always been part of the game of football, but there's a big difference between a torn muscle and a broken brain. A 2015 Boston University study found that 87 out of 91 deceased players had brain disease. The more scientists and doctors learn about concussions, the more imperative it is that the NFL figure out a way to change the sport to lessen the dangers to its players. Football has faced this sort of crisis before; in the early 1900s, the rules of the game were drastically overhauled after a number of college players were killed on the field. It's time to take drastic action again. Or it would be if the NFL weren't more concerned with money than player safety.

..and Coverups

The NFL is all about "protecting the shield," which is an especially smug and obnoxious way of saying they want to make sure they get their money at all costs. And they do that by covering up all the bad stuff going on in the league. Case in point: those concussions. As the PBS documentary League of Denial showed, the NFL knew about the dangers of concussions for decades, but rather than address the issue, they instead covered it up and tried to discredit anyone who dared stand up for player safety. While their retired players were struggling with chronic illness, injury, and even death, the NFL was not just ignoring their plight, but actively preventing measures that could have helped while lying about it the whole time. The folks atop the NFL are just bad people, period.

The insane public stadium scam

The NFL is one of the biggest and most profitable organizations in the country, with annual revenue in the billions of dollars. Yet despite this fact, teams consistently manage to scam their host cities into paying for exorbitant new stadiums with public funds supplied by taxpayers. In fact, NPR reports that taxpayers paid an average of $262 million for every new NFL stadium built between 1990 and 2010. And there's no guarantee they'll even get what they paid for. Just ask the citizens of St. Louis. They may not have a team now that the Rams have bolted for Los Angeles, but at least they are still stuck with an empty stadium and $144 million in debt. Thanks, NFL!

The NFL is non-profit?

Try not to hurt yourself laughing at this, but the stadium scam isn't the only way the NFL has tried to milk the public for all the money they can get. Get this: since 1942, the NFL has filed taxes as a non-profit. The rationale is that the league itself is just in the business of promoting the sport, not actually making money for themselves, so they're really more of a trade organization. The league announced recently that they're finally going to drop the non-profit thing because they're tired of people making fun of them for it. Which is nice. Now they just need to pay those 73 years worth of back taxes.

The league is rife with criminal behavior...

The NFL cares about one thing only: the bottom line. Off the field, that means money. On the field, that means performance. If you can make or break a tackle, that's the only thing that matters. Unfortunately, the attributes that make players ferocious warriors on the gridiron are the same ones that often make them dangers to society. Anger and violence are encouraged on the field, but all too often it spills over off the field. The USA Today NFL Arrest Database shows over 800 arrests of NFL players for serious offenses just since the year 2000. Just the fact that USA Today has something called the NFL Arrest Database should be a major red flag in and of itself. But despite this, most of the time the league happily turns a blind eye, as long as the player is good enough to warrant it.

...and Domestic Abuse

There's no reason to rehash the Ray Rice debacle from 2014, except for the fact that it's something no fan should forget. Not just because it was so shocking, but because it really shouldn't have been. The NFL has long had a serious problem with domestic abuse while paying barely more than lip service to fixing it. ESPN's Outside the Lines reports that of the 48 players considered by the league itself to be in violation of their domestic abuse policy between 2000 and 2014, more than half of them received no suspension at all, and most of the others only got one game. The NFL has been turning a blind eye, while the wives and girlfriends of their players have been turning a black eye. It's sick.

Even their charity work is actually for profit

Given their many public relations issues with women, it's no surprise that the NFL has attempted to court public favor by setting up charity efforts like their Pink October initiative. That's where they sell a bunch of pink football gear in their pro shops and then donate part of the proceeds to charity. So admirable. Unless, of course, you believe it's just another cheap way to try and make some money off an otherwise untapped market, namely women. That's what Sports Illustrated believes, estimating that the NFL actually donates as little as eight percent of the money they get from those sales to charity. Of course, the NFL denies this, claiming they give all of the "profit" to charity. But given this is the same company that somehow claimed to have lost $316 million in 2013, it's clear that their definition of profit is very loose. Leave it to the NFL to figure out a way to turn breast cancer into another money making cash grab.

Roger Goodell is a joke

Under current commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL's discipline system has become the laughingstock of professional sports. Ray Rice gets caught on camera punching his fiance in the face and knocking her out cold and he gets a two game suspension. Tom Brady is suspected of maybe possibly fiddling with a ball to absolutely no demonstrable benefit and he gets a four game suspension, plus the team is docked a draft pick. Right.

Goodell just makes up stuff off the top of his head, bending and changing the rules for political gain, going whichever way the wind blows while claiming his actions are all in the interest of protecting the integrity of the game. But he doesn't seem to realize he's the one destroying the game's integrity with his arbitrary actions and overreactions. How can anyone take him seriously at this point?

Non-guaranteed contracts

The big theme running through many of the league's problems is the way they consistently exploit their players, drain them dry, and then leave them on the scrap heap. From concussions and retirement benefits to the way they enable criminal behavior without attempting to help their employees deal with the underlying causes of that behavior, the league shows time and again how little they care for the individual. And nothing exemplifies this more than the fact that their contracts are non-guaranteed. This means that players can get cut or released at any time, for any reason. Better hope you don't get injured! Because then your "contract" isn't worth the paper it's printed on. The whole labor system is a one-way boondoggle meant to benefit one group only: the owners. And that naturally leads to...

Mercenary behavior

There's nothing as romantic in sports as the idea that players play for the love of the game. It's also something you're pretty much never going to see in the NFL. Thanks to the way players are treated by their teams, as disposable commodities, the players are forced to adopt a similarly mercenary attitude towards the sport. When your career might only last a year or three, you have to get yours while you can. That means loyalty and passion take a back seat to practicality.

And it also leads to selfish decisions on the field, not just off it. Perhaps the defining moment of this 2016's Super Bowl was when Panthers quarterback Cam Newton refused to fight for a loose ball because he was too worried about the possibility of getting hurt. When your best players are playing at half speed during the biggest game of their lives in order to protect a future paycheck, you know there's a problem.

The games stink

So what happens when everything about the league is designed solely to make a profit, and the players are afraid to actually give a full effort because they might lose their jobs or suffer permanent injury or death? You get a game that absolutely stinks. Seriously, when was the last time you tried to sit through an entire NFL game and just watch it? The only way to get through a game these days is to entertain yourself via fantasy sports, or to watch something like Red Zone where you can bop around from game to game and only see the few good parts. Forget about trying to watch a game in person; not only is the experience excruciating, it also costs a fortune. They say that the NFL is the perfect sport for television, and it's hard not to agree...because when you watch it on TV, you always have the option of changing the channel. Try it.