There is no question that the National Football League deserves to be under the national media’s microscope. The apparent proliferation of NFL players committing violent or abusive acts, and the soft punishments imposed on them by the League have deeply and understandably troubled millions of Americans. Perhaps most egregiously, it seems that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was content to bury the evidence that former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice viciously struck his wife.
This explosion of controversies has moved some to back a boycott of the NFL, according to CNN:
With a slew of domestic violence cases permeating the NFL, some football fans are benching America’s favorite fall pastime.
Even after the league enacted tougher punishments for domestic violence and three accused players sat out during games Sunday, the Twitter hashtag #BoycottNFL and calls for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s removal are running rampant.
“No football for me today. Fire Goodell and I may return. #BoycottNFL @nflcommish @nfl #FireGoodell,” Scott Allen tweeted.
And the women’s rights group Ultraviolet flew a banner over the New York Giants-Arizona Cardinals game Sunday, saying Goodell must go.
There is no question that the primary goal of this latest campaign on the left is to impose some form of reform on the institution of professional football.
“If pressure from the public keeps this ugly enough that advertisers go further than issuing statements of disappointment and actually turn away, we might just see the kinds of structural reforms that offer some measure of reform at the NFL,” wrote Salon’s Katie McDonough.
The call to reform the National Football League would be understandable, though a little excessive, if it was only this recent spate of domestic violence accusations and the NFL’s apparent desire to shield their players from consequence for their actions that spurned the left to demand the reform of professional football. But it is not.
Reforming or even federally regulating this uniquely American game has been a pet cause for many on the left for years.
In early 2013, President Barack Obama told The New Republic that he would not allow his son, if he had one, to play the notoriously violent game. His comments came amid a fiery controversy which waxed and waned as most do – a feature of the modern ADD news cycle — about evidence that professional football players suffer from concussive brain injuries long after they leave the field for good.
When MSNBC’s Alex Wagner asked Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) if there was “bipartisan support to regulate safety in the NFL,” the congressman said there should be. At the very least, he added, mandatory education programs in public schools about on-field safety should be implemented.
In that segment, The Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel added that the NFL is culpable for the care of its players because of what she claimed was the League’s historic efforts to cover up the damage their players suffer.
For the most part, the left stays on message; Professional and college football are violent, cutthroat games, and they need to be regulated for the good of the players and the fans. Occasionally, however, the veil slips and the perpetually outraged reveal that their true target all along was the game of football itself.
Of all the horrors currently confronting the republic, Time magazine devoted its cover story this week to the game of football. The cover article asked if it was “worth it.”
Tragically, the Time piece noted, a 16-year-old high school student died playing the game, and he was only one of a number of children to be seriously injured or killed playing this sport.
And yet, there are no calls to regulate the increasingly popular and exponentially more dangerous sport of soccer. If the concern on the left is about The Children, then it is soccer and not football should logically be the focus of concern.
In 2012, according to US Youth Soccer, just over 3 million American children have been counted as members every year since 2000. Many more play the game in an unaffiliated fashion. By contrast, participation in Pop Warner youth football is down.
Children incur more dangerous injuries more frequently playing that game than they do for football or ice hockey, via the athletic parenting resource MomsTeam.com.
“In one study, girls (11.9%) and boys’ (11.4%) soccer had the highest rates of injuries as a direct result of an illegal activity as ruled by a referee or disciplinary committee, behind only girls’ basketball (14%),” read one study.
While this is an anecdotal point, American football culture is remarkably tame compared to soccer culture around the world. Soccer hooliganism has literally become a motivating force assembling violent and downright revolutionary gangs in Europe. By contrast, American football fans are far more placid.
If it is institutional corruption that is the concern on the left, the National Basketball Association’s draft lottery and officiating controversies should be equally troublesome. College football’s BCS system, recruiting violations, ethical and student eligibility controversies should be an equally galvanizing source of frustration for the left. And what about Boxing or Mixed Martial arts? Both are incredibly violent sports and are marred by a history of corruption scandals.
The remarkable impulse among liberals to express more outrage at football over any other sport is revealing. Football is not the most violent, nor is it the most corrupt of professional sports, but it is the most uniquely American.
Perhaps that is the sport’s greatest crime of all.