It would be hard to find a less likable bunch.
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.