This story has nothing to do with Tom Brady winning his fifth Super Bowl. I thought about boycotting the whole thing yesterday. I’ve been rooting for the NFL to fall now for several years ever since the NFL became so blatantly obvious that their sole goal is to suck every last dollar from cities, players, and fans. From rotten stadium deals that burden cities, to long term neurological damage that should make us guilty for watching, to a culture that supports winning over any cost or character flaw, I’ve made it a goal to become a casual fan at best and divert my rooting interests to other sports. Here’s why.
First: NFL Lying About Concussions and their Connection to CTE
If you haven’t watched the 2015 Will Smith film Concussion, you should. Many NFL players have committed suicide or died early because of brain damage done by the extreme violence of the hits we’ve all come to know and love. This brain damage has a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). It’s been present in 90 of the 94 brains of former NFL players in a 2016 study.
The NFL lied about the causal link between repeated concussions and CTE for years and even now focuses its efforts at a BS P.R. campaign intended to convince people that the sport is somehow getting safer.
I’m extremely guilty of this. I love college football and used to love the NFL. I’ve looked up countless ‘big hit’ YouTube videos with awe at the intensity of the punishment guys inflict. That doesn’t make it right though.
How Did the NFL Deny CTE?
The NFL knew that CTE was a primary risk to its multi-billion dollar empire, so it did what every other corrupt gigantic corporation does when scientific evidence threatens its primary product: Deny, Deny, Deny.
In the movie I mentioned earlier, the NFL attempted character assassination at Will Smith’s character, the Nigerian trained doctor Bennet Omalu. Among other things, the NFL called him a witch doctor and viciously attacked his credibility.
Working with a large group of scientists, the evidence eventually became irrefutable that playing football long term significantly increases the risks of brain injury and neurological disorders. Only when public opinion turned so strongly against the league did the NFL admit anything. Even then, the NFL tried to steer its token donation for brain research to a doctor who literally had ties with the NFL and a strong incentive to downplay any negative findings.
Then the NFL Rushed to Lock in their Future Liabilities from Brain Injuries
According to the NFL’s own estimates from actuaries, 1 in 3 players will suffer from a cognitive impairment caused by brain damage from playing football. A recent study from the American Academy of Neurology found traumatic brain injury present in 40% of retired NFL players. Another study from Boston University found brain disease present in 96% of all professional football players. If you expand that pool to players that only played the game in high school or college, they found brain disease present in 79% of individuals.
To top it off, a large number of former players were dying from brain injuries and science was proving it beyond a reasonable doubt. What did the NFL do in the face of this evidence? Take efforts to limit future liabilities.
The NFL pushed through a $1 billion settlement that is supposed to cover all the future expenses over 20,000 retired players have from brain injuries for the next 65 years. To put it in context, that’s barely more than the taxpayer contribution Mark Davis and the Raiders want to extract from the city of Las Vegas for a single new stadium.
The average player payout is expected to be only $190,000 for individuals who will have their lives cut short in some cases by decades. Some players challenged the settlement as too small for a league that makes many billions of dollars every year, but the Supreme Court upheld it. The tobacco companies must have looked on with envy at the NFL’s legal prowess.
Second: NFL Taxpayer Stadium Subsidies Steal from the Vulnerable
I’m in St. Louis right now, and the Rams’ multi-million dollar eyesore/boondoggle stadium is sitting empty. Unfortunately, the city politicians who brought the team here in the ’90s were stupid enough to include a ‘top tier’ clause in the Ram’s lease for the new stadium. That means ownership could relocate the team and break their lease if the stadium was found to not be in the top quarter of all NFL stadiums.
So Rams owner Stan Kroenke decided to take advantage of this big time. He pushed to relocate the franchise to Los Angeles and left the city of St Louis saddled with $144 million of football stadium debt with no professional football tenant. Of course he will not be paying a dime of this money.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Black Lives Matter movement. A big part of the spark happened here in the St. Louis metro area in the suburb of Ferguson when decades of racial inequality boiled over. I’ve volunteered in St. Louis city schools. They don’t have enough money for cross town field trips, much less adequate support staff and hiring enough teachers. Many of the schools here are 80% to 90% African American. The money the Rams saved by breaking their lease will be coming out of these kids’ futures. Instead of using that $144 million on fixing St. Louis public schooling crisis, the city has to use the money to retire the debt of a multi-billionaire.
Check out this NFL Play 60 ad trying to boost the league’s image with Todd Gurley hanging out with St. Louis city kids from 2015. All those predominantly African American children featured in the commercial now get severely underfunded schools thanks to the Rams who used them in a PR campaign. I tried to embed it on my site but the NFL blocked it from appearing, no joke.
St Louis is Only an Example: This Happens Everywhere in Almost Every NFL City
Almost all NFL stadiums are built with taxpayer subsidized municipal bonds. That means the cost of the debt is lower than it would be if it was issued in the taxable markets because investors won’t have to pay tax on the interest. It means that every US citizen subsidizes the NFL regardless of whether or not it has a team.
That’s just the indirect subsidy cost. Almost all NFL cities pay some or all of the cost of their teams’ stadiums. The Cincinnati Bengals even required their hometown taxpayers to cover the future cost of holographic replay machines if they’re ever invented.
The Raiders are going to get $750 million from Las Vegas for ditching the historic African American area of Oakland, which will also be left with a large $95 million debt that the Raiders won’t have to pay. That money will of course have to come out of providing critical public services for residents.
In every city where the NFL extracts local taxpayer resources to build its lavish stadiums, that money comes primarily from city services that benefit lower income residents. Downtown areas where cities are located frequently have school districts with poorer families. As more clauses in these team contracts become exercised in future years, expect predominantly minority kids to suffer.
Third: Supporting a Culture of Domestic Violence
Remember when Commissioner Goodell gave Ray Rice a slap on the wrist for beating the crap out of his wife so severely he had to drag her unconscious body out of an elevator? Or when Jerry Jones signed Greg Hardy to a deal because he thought Hardy would add to his pass rush despite there being plenty of evidence he dragged his girlfriend by her hair through his apartment and then threw her on a coach filled with automatic weapons?
The only reason the NFL seems to care about domestic violence now is because its bad for their image. Have you heard a lot about domestic violence this season? I sure haven’t, and it’s because its a non issue now. The media has accepted that the league has stricter suspension rules in place and its moved on.
I seriously doubt that ownership attitudes have changed. They only want to protect themselves from the next viral TMZ video.
I Could Have Also Focused on the Culture of Substance Abuse
I could have also focused on the NFL’s tolerance for drunk driving. After all, what do you call a $500,000 fine and a 6 game suspension for the billionaire Colts owner Jim Irsay when got behind the wheel with a sky high blood alcohol content and could have killed someone.
Another thing I could’ve targeted was the NFL’s role in encouraging use and abuse of painkillers. I’ve read reports talking about how trainers hand out pills like candy. Players’ bodies have to recover week in and week out no matter how brutal the hits. Sometimes they have to be ready to go from a Sunday game to a Thursday night game. Other times they are pressured by coaching staffs to play through excruciating pain. The only way that’s possible is using prescription level painkillers. Wash University found that players have painkiller abuse rates four times as high as the general public.
Fourth: Encouraging Lots of Spending to Make Your Family Less Financially Secure
Yes every professional sports team is guilty of this, but the NFL takes it to another level. They demand a multi-million dollar marketing agreement with Microsoft to convince us to buy Surface tablets by placing them in front of us for every game.
Another favorite advertising partner of the NFL is truck manufacturers. Few things can damage a middle class family’s finances more than financing a brand new F-250. This is my anecdotal observation, but it seems like the advertising partners of the NFL have very high margins on their products.
NFL games spend more time on commercials than any other professional sport. That’s amusing, because Twitter agrees that the 2017 Super Bowl commercials were awful this year. Why would you sit through a 4 hour football game when you could watch a 2 hour NBA basketball game with less advertising?
Essentially, by watching NFL games we’re wasting countless hours sitting in front of a glowing screen listening to companies whose desire it is to separate money from our wallets that could be going to making our families financially secure. By tuning out these ads, we will be happier, have more money, and add hours back to our lives.
Hey Millennials, Next Season, Let’s Cause NFL Viewership to Drop Even More
The NFL was really worried this season because their viewership declined for the first time basically ever. They tried to blame it on the presidential election, but they’re definitely worried about it.
They should be. I’d love nothing more than if my generation was the generation that put a stop to the vampire squids of professional sports.
The next time you’re thinking about watching an NFL game, remember that many of the players will be suffering from severe neurological disorders in future years. Recall that the league’s policies do little to deter abusers of women and in some cases even encourages substance and alcohol abuse. Think about the money you could save if you weren’t subjected to the advertising designed to convince you that you can’t be happy unless you buy the next greatest thing.
Finally, think about the three gigantic stadiums sitting empty now in St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland. Think about how the NFL lied to these cities and told their leaders they wanted to make a home there for years to come. Think about all the lip service paid to fan loyalty and the military when it was revealed that the NFL demanded money in paid displays of fake patriotism.
Think about the mostly minority kids in Oakland who don’t have enough teachers because their city has to pay back the debt of a billionaire who defaulted on his obligation because of a loophole. Think about the families in St. Louis dealing with a sky high murder rate who don’t have enough police officers or homicide detectives because their city can’t afford them thanks to the NFL.
The NFL sucks. It’s time their greed crushed their pocketbooks and the values of their franchises. Got an opinion? Share it in the comments about your thoughts on the NFL.