The National Football League (NFL) is a billion dollar industry whose market is growing continuously. According to ESPN, the NFL made 9.3 billion dollars in 2011-2012 and is projected to make 16.1 billion by 2018. However, over recent years, team owners and corporate workers have turned this game into too much of a business. This has caught the attention of the public. Over the past years, the health and safety of players retired and not has been pushed aside. The NFL suicide rate is six times the national average. The qualifications of the officiating team has not been a priority, but yet making sure the NFL logo is an internationally known symbol has been. The NFL has been turned to work against the players and the fans that paint their faces and spend a ridiculous amount of money cheering for their team each week.
Concussions are amoung the prominent injuries in the NFL. A study by Christopher Randolph, director of the neuropsychology service at Loyola University Medical Center, revealed that 61% of retired NFL players had received at least one concussion in their career and 24% had received three or more. The simple fact is once you receive one concussion, you are much more likely to receive another. Brain injuries can be fatal; they are no joke, so why does the NFL treat them as one? For fans, big hits bring excitement. Still, in their defense it isn’t their problem to worry about player’s safety. The hits received in games can develop into larger life threatening problems for players. How many more former player’s families have to go through the pain that Dave Duerson’s did? Duerson took his own life by shooting himself in the chest to preserve his brain in February 2011. He left behind only a note saying he wanted his brain examined. Later examination showed he suffered neurodegenerative disease caused from concussions that developed his depression. Unfortunately, Duerson is not the only former NFL players to end his life this way. Junior Seau and Ray Easterling have also taken their own life. Before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took office in 2006, the NFL concussions committee denied that repeated concussions have harmful effects on player’s health since its launch in 1994 till 2009. Since then, NFL has changed its view saying there is a connection between repeated hits to the head and health issues, which can potentially cause depression and or dementia. But what has been done to fix the problem? The lack of the NFL to really crack down on the problem is sinister. When will the NFL get it that concussions and brain injuries need to become a top concern. A player’s life does not end once his career is done, but enough bashes to the head might end it. When games conclude and the offices of the NFL review tape to determine fines and possible suspensions, it should be suggested they direct their concern towards stopping the injuries rather than fining players for wearing the wrong shoes. Or perhaps be more concerned with investing in preventive care before injuries occur rather than making sure every team has pink cleats and other accessories to wear throughout the month of October.
Adding to the list of problems, the referee lockout was a main talking point this past year. At first everyone seemed okay with the idea of replacement refs. It was thought the NFL had found qualified individuals who could handle the job. This quickly changed, and people were quick to talk out, even the players. Reggie Bush, running back for the Detroit Lions, tweeted “These refs gotta go I’m sorry.” The calls the replacement refs made, and many times did not make, changed the game. Continually messing up calls from week to week destroys the integrity of the game. Replacement refs are most notoriously known for a single call that happened last season. On Monday Night Football in primetime TV the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks game was coming down to the last play. Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson made a last attempt at a Hail Mary pass into the end zone when the two replacement refs made conflicting calls at the end of the play. One called a touchdown, and the other called an interception. After review, Golden Tate, Seahawks wide receiver, was credited with a touchdown-- his second score of the game. This was a game changing play, making the Packers the first team to officially lose because of the replacement refs’ calls. Outrage struck across the league, and thankfully the referee lockout was settled shortly after. The NFL hired amateurs, and everyone including players, coaches, and fans know it.
Furthermore, the corrupt business scheme did not end there. Having replacement refs at all last season was the aftermath of unwilling owners to give up more money. Team owners and commissioner Roger Goodell have become too powerful. The NFL market is ever growing. No matter what happens people still go to games, buy merchandise, and TV networks still air them. In this situation, the owners and the league do not lose only the fans and those who really care about the game lose. Plain and simple the lockout happened because of the owners and referee union not being able to come to terms. They were unwilling to give up a few more dollars for quality play. Over the course of the past years, owners have seemed to become no longer passionate about the game, but rather the income. This is where the problem stands; owners are okay with tainted play if they are saving some money. The NFL is a money-making machine and being a fan in this kind of business is dangerous. You have little say, and money is always going to be made.
One thing that many fans especially like about Football is the over the top scoring celebrations that no other sport can really claim to have. For many young fans the best part of the pick up game in their back yard isn’t scoring a touchdown, it’s getting the chance to imitate a touchdown celebration they had seen on of their favorite players do earlier that week. However, in recent years, the NFL has tried to make a business out of that too. They began by fining players for celebrations they deemed unacceptable. At first, it was just things such as not allowing players to make obscene gestures or replicate violence or other things that are considered generally offensive. However, as time went on the list of things a player could be fined for grew and they weren’t handing out small fines either. The NFL had developed a new revenue steam by fining their own players tens of thousands of dollars at a time for harmless touchdown celebrations. They added rules such as banning players from using props in their celebration. Props make the celebration more extravagant, which is something fans love to see and is in no way detrimental to the game. However, in 2009, Chad Ochocinco was fined $30,000 by the NFL for wearing a sombrero on the bench after scoring a touchdown. He was fined again a few years later for wearing a Hall of Fame jacket on the sideline that said “Future H.O.F. 20??.” Again, the NFL insisted this was somehow detrimental to the game and took more money from Ochocinco.
In 2009, the NFL may have performed their single most greedy act showing them to be heartless and far too interested in money. The NFL fined Eagles tight end Brent Celek for striking a Captain Morgan pose after scoring a touch down. Celek did so because Captain Morgan had promised to donate $10,000 to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund (GGAF) for each player seen doing this on camera. The GGAF is a non-profit organization that benefits retired NFL players. The NFL’s reason for the fine was not because it felt the pose was inappropriate in anyway. It was simply because they didn’t want Captain Morgan getting free publicity from their game without the NFL getting a piece of the action. The NFL warned that any future player doing this would also be fined. In essence, the NFL took away many tens of thousands of dollars that would have been donated to a non-profit charity that helped its own players merely because they couldn’t let anything happen without them also making money off of it too.
In such a powerful industry it is hard to be heard unless you are contributing heavily to it. The aftermath of injuries received throughout player’s careers has proved to be drastic and even fatal. The lack of quality fans have been subjected to over the course of recent year is pitiful. As the power shifts to where the money is, we are seeing a new game being played. The NFL is showing repeatedly they care more about money than any other aspect of the game. A game that is driven by contracts, rules, and mostly money, is losing its sense of identity, detracting many away from a game once loved. The NFL is quickly becoming a business where few actually win.