Last year the NFL raked in nearly 10 billion dollars in revenue in its dominance over every other major sport in this country. The NFL is so big at this point that it baffles the mind that they can and will get bigger, in fact they aim to do just that by expanding their revenue to 25 billion dollars by the year 2027.
I’m old enough to remember what the American sports environment was in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. While the NFL was hugely popular, the gap between them and the rest of the sports leagues was marginal. In the 70’s baseball had the big red machine (the Reds) with household names such as Pete Rose and Johnny Bench while in the 80’s and 90’s basketball was hugely popular with superstars such as Magic, Bird, Jordan and Laimbeer.
As the turn of the century approached something happened that was a game changer for the NFL – Technology and with that the best marketing money can buy.
The NFL was ahead of the curve on this from the beginning whether it’s the billion dollar industry of fantasy football or the marketing genius that is Superbowl week, the NFL very wisely knows how to squeeze every drop out of its product and flawlessly market it to the masses. Just the simple act of releasing the schedule for the upcoming season has become a made for TV spectacle, they shine at selling their product and we eat it up.
While the NFL has embraced technology with its slick promotions and marketing campaigns they failed to take in account (or maybe they don’t care) the technical advances of social media and the way information spreads so rapidly.
When news broke last week that 49ers linebacker Chris Borland decided to hang up his cleats after only one year in the league because of concerns of long-term neurological damage caused by slamming his head into other players, twitter exploded and the reactionary media responses pushed it even further.
In what seemed like a simple act (a player retiring) turned in to much more. The NFL’s reaction was so quick because they have a big fat elephant in the room, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. The NFL felt it had to do something to snuff out the media firestorm because Borland’s sudden retirement had brought the spotlight back to the effects of long-term brain damage due to playing in the NFL.
So what does the NFL do? They have their own TV network interview the Steelers’ neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph C. Maroon who just happens to sit on the league’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee. You would think you would get some kind of insight regarding head injuries from him but instead he dropped this little nugget in everybody’s lap.
Can we improve? Yes, we have to do better all the time to make it safer, but I think if a kid is physically able to do it and wants to do it, our job is to continue to make it safer. But it’s much more dangerous riding a bike or a skateboard than playing youth football.”
The NFL wants every parent to know that riding a bike is more dangerous than playing football. You see what the doctor did there? By crunching numbers of youths riding bikes versus youngters playing football he came up with this ridiculous conclusion to ease the fear of all concerned parents everywhere, but what the good doctor forgot to provide in his “study” was the time spent riding bikes and skateboards compared to how much time a kid is actually on the field playing football, how convenient.
We really shouldn’t be surprised by this after all this is the same doctor that co-wrote a piece for the Washington times with the subheading “Staying on the sidelines carries far more health danger than getting into the game” It’s also no coincidence that the Washington Times is in bed with the Redskins owner Dan Snyder who produces a weekly magazine for the paper. This is a classic case of the NFL using its weight with a major media outlet to sway public opinion.
I have serious doubts that soccer moms across this country not letting their kids play football will put a dent in the talent pool for future generations but the mere suggestion that it could happen causes the suits at 245 Park Ave to squirm.
As the misinformation continues pour out by the NFL the Who Dat Nation rolls their eyes as we are way ahead of the curve on what the general public is now catching up to – The NFL and Rodger Goodell will lie to you with no conscience at all. Who could forget that fateful spring day in 2012 when Goodell and his squad of high-priced investigators proclaimed it had poured over 18,000 documents on the way to finding that 22 to 27 players orchestrated a systematic program to injure opposing players for pay. The problem was that there was not one single shred of on field evidence to back this up – not one shred.
Despite not having any evidence the NFL has never acknowledged the many holes in their story.
It’s only when the NFL is exposed on a national level that their PR machine kicks into high gear with a boatload of sleight of hand magic tricks.
When the season kicked off last year and a video obtained by TMZ surfaced showing Ray Rice punching his girlfriend in an elevator the NFL acted shocked by the “new” evidence in the case. It was only after intense public outcry that the NFL moved on disciplining Rice saying it had never seen the video contrary to the fact that a law enforcement officer provided the video to the league office.
The truth of the matter is that the league has systematically hid their domestic abuse problems for years, successfully stamping out the fire before it became public. It is only because of the Ray Rice video that more and more women are coming forward to tell their story on how the league and their teams (and in some cases, the cops themselves) turn their back on them when they report a domestic violence crime to the police.
Last October former Bears general Manager Jerry Angelo at least admitted to covering up reports of domestic violence saying he hid hundreds of cases, he also added this…
“We knew it was wrong,” Angelo said. “…For whatever reason, it just kind of got glossed over. I’m no psychiatrist, so I can’t really get into what that part of it is. I’m just telling you how I was. I’ve got to look at myself first. And I was part of that, but I didn’t stand alone.”
It’s amazing to me that the league within itself had a policy to cover up domestic violence among its players and in a lot of cases – try to silence the victims. While I type this the general public is more worried about playoff expansion and extra point rule changes than the NFL perfecting the skill of smoke and mirrors. Did I mention how good the NFL’s PR department is at having you look at one hand as the other is doing something else?
I really shouldn’t be surprised at the cover up and arrogance of the NFL because they have been doing this for years. Back in 2002 Nigerian Doctor Bennet Omalu was doing an autopsy on former Steelers center Mike Webster when he came across a game changing discovery, Webster’s brain had CTE. This was a condition that shouldn’t be in a 50-year-old man’s brain, Omalu would publish his findings and bring them to the NFL.
The NFL not only brushed off his findings they demanded that he retract his published report. Yes a trained neuropathologist had brought the NFL evidence linking football and CTE and the NFL not only told him to get lost but also to swallow his integrity and retract the paper. We also have to remember this was before the concussion law suits were gaining traction, this was a time when the NFL could hide its dirty little secret.
As paranoid and far-fetched as it might seem, the NFL felt these findings at its core would damage the league in ways that would challenge its very existence telling Omalu –
“Bennett, do you know the implications of what you’re doing? If 10 percent of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport, that is the end of football.”
In 2013 the PBS’ Frontline aired a documentary titled a league of denial. This documentary goes into great detail about the NFL’s cover up of the brain trauma caused by playing football, if you haven’t seen this film I highly recommend it (you can see it HERE)
I know a lot of what I wrote on here has been dissected and discussed before but every now and then I feel it is necessary to shine the light on the NFL’s dark room behavior.
The NFL is a great product and I eat it up just like the next fan but I am in no way fooled at how they became so successful and how they intend to stay that way – at all cost.