The NFL’s information issue threatens sport’s popularity

Credit: Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports

We truly live in tremendous times.

Information abounds and is available for anyone and everyone through the internet.

By utilizing social media, we’re able to break down geographic barriers and connect with friends and family members across the globe, instantly.

That spread of information also helps us form opinions about the world around us, those that are open-minded will find those opinions can change as new information is presented.

Over the last few years, fans of the National Football League have experienced this information overload, possibly with great displeasure.

The first major scandal was “Bountygate,” in which coaches challenged their players to raise money putting “bounties” on opponents’ heads. While the New Orleans Saints were penalized heavily, they were simply made an example of. This behavior was happening all over the league.

Look, injuries are a part of football, a sad consequence of playing a brutal game. But intentionally injuring someone? That’s disgusting.


Because of all the information coming out about concussions.

Yes, when League of Denial hit the airwaves this fall, Roger Goodell must have realized his – and the NFL’s – worst nightmare had come to the forefront of the discussion on the sport.

Concussions and the league not only denying their damage to players’ brains but their combatting against neurologists’ findings for years was covered in the documentary, as well as some facts and figures about CTE.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, has caused incredible memory problems and escalating anger problems in former football players, causing some – like Dave Duerson and Junior Seau – to commit suicide.

20 years ago, John Madden joked about Troy Aikman’s Thanksgiving Day concussion saying, “He’ll have to eat turkey through a straw tonight!” Even as recently as a few years ago, concussions were called “dings” as to lessen the severity of the injury.

Now the league has third-party doctors on every sideline, which should ensure players with concussions don’t get back onto the playing field. Although, David Bakhtiari of the Green Bay Packers literally pushed through doctors to return to the field this season after a concussion and other violations have happened as well.

For fans, now knowing how damaging concussions actually are, it’s sickening to see players get hit in the head week after week.

It’s enough to question your allegiance to the game.

And even more recently, we’ve seen other egregious examples of how ugly the NFL can be.

When Michael Sam came out last week, John Elway of the Denver Broncos applauded his courage, while other teams’ executives – stuck in their homophobic ways – have been against an openly gay player in the NFL.

And now the full report on Richie Incognito’s bullying of Jonathan Martin has come to the surface, with all the ugly details. According to the Ted Wells report, Incognito as well as guard John Jerry and center Mike Pouncey each harassed not only Martin but another offensive lineman as well as an assistant trainer of the Miami Dolphins. “We find that the Assistant Trainer repeatedly was targeted with racial slurs and other racially derogatory language. Player A frequently was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching. Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments.”

That sounds gross, demeaning, juvenile and really, ridiculous.

“We find that the harassment of Martin bears many hallmarks of a classic case of bullying, where persons who are in a position of power harass the less powerful. It may seem odd to some that Martin, a professional football player with imposing physical stature, could be described as a victim of bullying or harassment, but even big, strong athletes are not immune from vulnerability to abusive behavior.”

It’s yet another black eye on the NFL.

And, the problem for the league is this; they can’t stop the flow of information and so much of that information is painting a grotesque picture of the most popular sport in America today.

How long will fans turn a blind eye to all of the nastiness behind the NFL? How long can they?

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