Muscle Sport Magazine

The NFL – From “America’s Game” To America’s Shame

Baseball is known as “Our National Pastime” and has a certain quaintness about it that resonates well with fans young and old. But the sport of football made strides over the decades to overtake it in many ways, growing from its ‘leatherhead’ early days of ridicule to a global attraction, perhaps only rivaled by soccer in popularity. The ‘day of rest’ became a day on the couch in front of the television and Monday nights became a national stage for two teams to gain fans outside of their respective cities. Super Bowl Sunday has become a de-facto holiday of sorts, as well. Yes, the National Football League was able to make football “America’s Game.”

It was even deemed patriotic in a number of ways, more specifically Super Bowl XXV in January 1991 that was played under the specter of war. Because it was broadcasted around the world, our troops fighting the Gulf War were able to tune in from the Middle East and Whitney Houston performed a legendary “Star Spangled Banner” to kick things off in Tampa Bay.

The game was shown by ABC and the network chose to not show the much-ballyhooed halftime show (New Kids on the Block headlined), but rather cut to the newsroom for updates on the progress against Iraq. Keep that point in mind and the comparison to halftime shows the last few years.

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Then after the tragic attacks by the radical Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001, the NFL paused for their Week 2 schedule that was to take place a few days later. (These games were rescheduled to the end of the regular season.) Week 3 was one filled with patriotic pre-game acts filled with moments of silence and field-size American flags being held by all the players and members of the military and first responders; nary a hint of what would eventually come to be.

There has always been professional athletes in all sports who have committed crimes off the field, but the NFL has become a frat house of sorts for felons who repeat their offenses over and over, only to be accepted back with open arms – at times sans a suspension nor fine.

So how did all of this happen and when did it begin?

The easy scapegoat is commissioner Roger Goodell, but his reign started off on the other end of the spectrum and his heavy-handedness was applauded by the purists, while the offenders and their backers screamed that is was overkill. Goodell, who was named commissioner on September 1, 2006, waited only seven months before announcing that the league would have a new Personal Conduct Policy following a spout of off-the-field scandals. The likes of Adam “Pacman” Jones, Chris Henry and Michael Vick were sent away and for good reason.

Something needed to be done and fast. There were 70 arrests of NFL players in 2006, an extraordinary number and an embarrassment to the league.

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Domestic violence reared its ugly head in the NFL with the Ray Rice incident in 2014. Goodell originally handed down a rather light two-game suspension to the Baltimore Ravens running back until the surveillance video of his assault was released, causing Goodell to change it to an ‘indefinite’ suspension; Rice has never played again.

The arrest totals did decrease since 2006 but have become more polarized due to social media, TMZ and every single person walking the streets being their own ‘news outlet,’ of sorts. Videos of players assaulting women became mainstream news stories and gave the NFL a well-deserved bad reputation.

It all came to a head in 2017 when Colin Kaepernick was observed sitting on the San Francisco 49ers bench during the playing of our National Anthem before a preseason game. By Week 3 of the regular season, a number of other players around the league joined him in solidarity in protest of the police and our criminal justice system when it came to black people, taking a knee during the Star Spangled Banner.

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Another change occurred that same season when Goodell all but eliminated the excessive celebration rule, which became an embarrassing spectacle of players performing obviously well-rehearsed dance routines in the end zone, many in group formation. This is not entertainment, but rather douche chill-inducing showboating. When players spend time practicing nonsense like this instead of using it for watching film or staying longer in the weight room, it makes it even harder to digest when questioning their commitment.

So how did Goodell rectify the kneeling protest? Initially, it seemed that he would try to keep it under wraps by giving players the option of remaining in the locker room but also stating that they must stand for the National Anthem. However, he did not address the ‘Black Power’ or ‘Black Panther’ fist held high by many of the players who switched their protest act, one that invokes more than an anti-police sentiment, one that conjures up memories of assassinations of uniformed on-duty officers at the hands of the black domestic terrorist organization.

It would seem like a moot point for Goodell since he also ignored the Beyonce Black Panther Super Bowl 50 halftime show act that took place in February of 2016.

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In an attempt to placate the protestors, Goodell rolled out the NFL Social Justice Initiative, which was an expensive method of pandering to the black players. Millions of dollars siphoned into different programs that were also matched by each team. The Philadelphia Eagles used these funds too bail out nine prisoners who were incarcerated in Pennsylvania.

“We recognize that the only reason that these people were in jail is because they couldn’t afford to get out. If any of them had the resources I did, they would be out,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said to reporters in November of 2018. “So it’s not a matter of public safety or being convicted of a crime, which they haven’t yet, it’s just they’re simply too poor for their freedom.”

So what’s the message being sent here? One can easily make the argument that being accused of committing a crime should not be punishable, only if one is convicted should they be held responsible and pay their debt to society. Jenkins is totally wrong in his assessment; people are in jail because they have broken the law and remain there if they cannot post bail. And they can certainly in fact be a danger to society, or at least the person(s) they were involved with that caused their arrest.

In conclusion, the game that was the envy of the sports world has become a circus without a tent, one that delivers a weekly message that allows embarrassing and disrespectful behavior as long as it keeps a certain group happy.

Identity politics at its finest.

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