Here’s Why the NFL Sucks, and It Has Nothing to Do with Tom Brady

nfl sucks
What the Rams stadium in St Louis looks like now courtesy of St Louis Post Dispatch. But it’s an asset! The taxpayers own it! It was a great investment!

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

NFL sucks
Former NFL fullback Kevin Turner, dead last year from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) Courtesy of the NY Times

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.

17 thoughts on “Here’s Why the NFL Sucks, and It Has Nothing to Do with Tom Brady”

  1. I gotta admit, although I enjoy the entertainment value of the NFL, I have to agree with your core premise. They are pretty blatantly just trying to make as much money as possible. And although I understand why, I think some of the league’s decisions are more and more questionable with regards to going too far in the pursuit of profit. Thanks for your perspective.
    Jay @ ITF recently posted…Trend Following Trading Ideas for February 2017 Part 1My Profile

    1. I enjoy it too, that’s why they have such power. Reviewing all the reasons for their decline has made me a lot more wary

  2. To add to the list, the NFL from 1942 to 2015 was a tax exempt operation. Goodell made $44.1 million in 2012. Do you see a disconnect anywhere?

    Concussions are a big reason for be pursuing the FIRE path. From 8th to 11th grade, I sustained about 4 or 5. The last one during my junior year had me wearing sunglass everywhere and taking sleeping pills for almost 6 months. Needless to say, I am a bit worried the effects of this down the road.

    Great article Travis!

    1. I too have suffered several. One good side effect I suppose is all the attention placed on brain research. Might not have happened without the high profile nature of the NFL and it’s concussion issues

      1. Very true. It definitely puts everything into perspective when you have experienced the pain. Two lingering symptoms I have had are head aches when 1.) I don’t get enough water 2.) When I don’t get enough sleep. In a way it is a great motivator to stay hydrated and well rested.

  3. Ughhh, you’re 100% right…so true. I’m a huge Patriots and Tom Brady fan so this week I’ve been on cloud 9 but everything you’ve said is true. I don’t know if you watch Game of Thrones but there is a scene where Khalesi wants to stop a gladiator style fight from happening because she thinks its horrible but then she is told that it’s important in bringing the people of the city together and raising spirits. She ultimately decides to let the fights go on. I think that argument could be made about the NFL in a small way but totally agree that the camaraderie benefits are minimal compared to the terrible, terrible things going on with concussions, money, etc.
    Julie @ Millennial Boss recently posted…10% Of The Year Has Passed – How Are You Doing On Your Goals?My Profile

  4. Plus, NFL has become too political. The reason why many watch sports is to ESCAPE the day-to-day stuff (like politics) for 3 hours. Now, the NFL has unpatriotic jerks not standing for the National Anthem, and the commissioner and owners do NOTHING. Brave men and women gave their LIVES for our freedom (including these players’ freedom) so that these multi-millionaire prima donnas can play a GAME for MILLIONS of dollars per year, and the NFL does NOTHING. Establish a new NFL rule … either stand for the National Anthem, or be banned for life from NFL … see how many would sit then … and if they did, good riddance.

  5. Agree 100%. I am purposely going from 100mph on NFL this season down to 5mph. I’m going to 1 game and watching the rest of the Cardinals game on TV. I’m 47 and football wasn’t a Hollywood production in the 70s and 80s and a lot more dangerous. Never the less, the NFL is purely about profit and money and less about athleticism and sportsmanship. Between the Hollywood-like productions, TMZ airing everyone’s dirty laundry in all their ridiculousness, and the obvious money grab by adding more pre-season games and the idea of extending the season, I’m a casual fan.

  6. Because the WWE has more integrity than the NFL referees who make the game pointless because of Non Calls or Calls being so erroneous that it changes the outcome of the game. Personally I think the fix is in.

  7. I’m done with the NFL…..hope millions more will unplug and spend more time with their kids, read a book, workout, chores, anything besides sit and watch a bunch of jerks kneel during the national anthem… So many more ways to spend your life.

    1. I agree that there are much better ways to spend time than stare at glowing screens. I’m just really turned off by the pure greed of the owners and their lack of caring towards the taxpayers they abuse.

  8. Watched as many games as possible as a young man. What a waste! I turned on the Seahawks game only to find they were hiding in the locker room during the National anthem. I can’t even imagine how my former marine sargent grandfather would have felt about this refusal to honor the county, it’s warriors, and the ideals it stands for, like; “all men are created equal.” Stand or don’t but own it. I just deleted the game and went outside and enjoyed my beautiful acreage. Glad they lost.

  9. I quit watching when every lineman on a team with a 2-13 record, down 42-3 in the game, felt the need to shake his ass with other ass-shaking linemen after making a routine tackle. Pathetic.

  10. Excellent on point article, sadly. For all the points covered intelligently, I add one more. Read the recent SI articles on Nick Buonoconti. If that doesn’t drive the point home of how horrible the NFL is to even it’s founders/legends, I don’t think anything will. The NFL is very addicting, and very difficult to kill that addiction. IMO it’s as bad as smoking or drinking, and usually it’s in ADDITION to both!

    Thankfully, I have stopped the NFL insanity, but not without the help of all the NFL morons; i.e. Goodell, selfish narcissistic players and the incredible insatiable mind boggling greed. The people have the power to bring that league to it’s rightful doom, but they just don’t have the foresight or guts to follow thru.

    St. Louis, twice. Soon Oakland, twice. Los Angeles, twice. Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston, San Diego…all in the last 30 yrs +/-.

    The folks spending their hard earned $$$ keep letting that powerful addiction control their ability to see right from wrong, and feed the perpetuity of this insane & useless enterprise called the NFL.

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