Politics/Law/Government

I’ve stopped watching the NFL because of the owners, not the players

It would be hard to find a less likable bunch.

NFL-owners

I’m an old white guy from the South. I love football, but not 24/7. Owners have blanketed the airwaves with games, creating both overload and confusion. It used to be that Sunday afternoon was a special time for me. I’d sit down to watch my beloved Bears, or if they weren’t on, scream at the television for not showing them. Now, the game’s on Monday, or Thursday, or Sunday morning, or Sunday night, or sometimes Saturday. Sheesh. And then there’s re-airing. It’s just too much.

I’ve also stopped watching because it’s become increasingly obvious that I care more about winning than owners do. I get not calling Colin Kaepernick if you’ve already got a solid quarterback or are invested in a young one like Jared Goff. Or maybe even one who has shown flashes of excellence, like Joe Flacco. But Tom Savage? Seriously?

And then there’s the rampant nepotism of the NFL. As a business executive, I saw many organizations that were dysfunctional because they were overstaffed with otherwise unemployable family members. Nepotism is the NFL’s business model. A journalist once counted over a hundred relatives of the owners in one front office. If Jerry Jones really cared about winning, he’d banish himself from the draft room.

I’m also sick of the owners’ dishonesty and hypocrisy. Owners are proud champions of private enterprise who get the public to foot the bill for stadiums. They pretend to have no idea that their product cripples and kills many of their employees. And as much as I hate the Patriots (boo! hiss!), even I think it’s ridiculous to hand out the same suspension to a quarterback for under-inflated footballs and to a defensive end for assault.

The owners have also injected politics into sport, by allowing the return of divisive figures like Hank Williams, Jr. That’s more than a dog whistle. They’ve used patriotism and the flag as marketing devices, cheapening both. I like politics and sports, but I like them like I like soup and salad, served separately.

Finally, I’ve stopped watching because I can no longer convince myself that this isn’t about race. Like many, I was outraged when former NBA player Rasheed Wallace compared pro sports to a plantation. Plantation? Slaves? How about those private jets? But the more I watch professional sports, and particularly football, the more I can’t help noticing that many of the harshest policies in professional sports disproportionately affect black athletes. In sports where most of the athletes are white, like baseball, tennis, soccer and golf, there’s no requirement for college before a young athlete can go pro. In predominantly black sports, like basketball and football, there is. Drug testing for marijuana disproportionately affects black athletes. Black quarterbacks seem to get fewer second chances than white quarterbacks. And it’s impossible to ignore the fact that most of the athletes kneeling in protest are black and most of those standing are white.

If this kneeling thing is about business, I get it. I think there’s a very strong business rationale for not having players kneel during the anthem. It offends a large section of the customer base and is in violation of the labor agreement. But as owners have shown, like Bob McNair with his “inmates running the prison” remark, this might be more about a bunch of old white men insisting a bunch of young black men shut up and do as they’re told. One of the NFL’s marketing partners, Papa John’s Pizza, even blamed their slumping sales on the fact that owners haven’t cracked down on the protesters. This isn’t the 1930’s. Millennials don’t just hop to it whenever the boss snaps his fingers. In this case, these young men are taking a lot of heat to make a point that’s obviously important to them. Good bosses would listen, not yell louder.

So I’m done with the NFL. I used to go to a few games a year. No more. I used to buy the NFL Sunday Ticket cable package, but stopped. And no more jerseys for the grandkids.

Oh, and Papa John? I don’t eat your pizza because it isn’t very good.

3 replies »

  1. I barely know where to start here, other than to say I agree with every word and if anything I’m kind of annoyed you went so easy on them.

    I care less about the NFL than I have at any point in my life. The only thing sort of keeping me attached is the Broncos, and if you’ve been paying attention this year you’ll understand that’s slipping, too.

    I used to love hockey – watched all the Avs games, went to a lot of them. Then you had the owners locking the players out, imposing their will, then doing it again because even though they got everything they wanted they still couldn’t rake enough to make themselves happy. Fuck ’em.

    Truth is, about the only US sport I pay attention to anymore is pro hoops. I’m interested when one of my three universities is playing, and March Madness is fun sometimes (although I care more about the first weekend than the last), and minor league football (you know, the NCAA) has moments.

    But ultimately it’s all so fucking corrupt it requires increasingly draining amounts of effort to engage the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to get through a game without feeling like a john.

    Anyone who knows me understands what a sports freak I have been in my life. Jock was my personal identity, perhaps as much (or even moreso) than intellectual or artist. I still dress like I’m heading to the gym most of the time. I played everything. I watched everything.

    But as you say, owners have ruined it. And I count university presidents among “owners.” Power Five presidents are some of the best-paid pimps in America.

    Fortunately I have Chelsea. World football isn’t perfect, but it’s honest about what it is.

    • He may have been wrong on some details, but Mark Cuban’s prediction on the decline of the NFL may be becoming reality. I now watch, sort of, only home team (Patriots) games but in between other activities. And never after 21:30 – sleep is more important.

      Two things are particularly bothersome to me. The number and severity of injuries is unacceptable. The bodies are too big, powerful and fast to survive the impacts and sudden changes in speed / direction. And I’ve come to hate the ‘celebrations.’ It’s become professional wrestling-like chest beating. Don’t make the world watch your unique ritual display after you’ve done your job.

      The owners individually and collectively are a bunch of incompetents, most of whom inherited their wealth. But they’re awfully good at putting on gladiatorial contests and screwing the public.

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