Pretty much every professional sports league has wacky allegations and conspiracy theories that may or may not be true, and the NFL is no different. Since the Patriots are the most controversial team in NFL history and they are in another Super Bowl, it seems like the perfect time to take a look back at all of the biggest conspiracies throughout NFL history. Even at the beginning stages of the league there were rumours of games being fixed to generate more excitement and buzz around the game of football. Now the league is no different. They seem to do whatever it takes to protect the shield of the NFL and keep fan bases happy and entertained. These theories are based on little evidence, but they still make some people wonder what goes on behind the scenes in the NFL.
The controversies on this list make the cut because they either made national headlines or had a major impact on the game of football and how the NFL was run. With social media giving every fan a voice there is a never ending list of conspiracy theories that pop up left and right these days. Similarly, the same teams go to the Super Bowl year after year and it seems like the NFL is always littered with scandals. It is no wonder why so many conspiracy theories arise. Here are the fifteen biggest scandals throughout NFL history that just might one day turn out to be true.
15 The Super Bowl Blackout
How can a billion dollar corporation have the lights go out on its biggest event of the year? The NFL had a major fail in 2013 when the Super Bowl had to be delayed around thirty minutes because half of the Superdome lights went out. At the time the Ravens were blowing out the 49ers and the game was a one sided contest. The long delay slowed down the Ravens momentum and the 49ers scored 17 unanswered points. The outcome in the end worked out for the league because one of the games most notable defenders of all-time Ray Lewis walked out with the trophy. The lights reportedly went out because a piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system. However maybe the lights went out so that the game could be a more exciting finish.
14 The Ezekiel Elliot Case
Ever since the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy scandals, the NFL has come out and had a strong stance against player domestic violence. They proved that this offseason when they went after Dallas Cowboys running back this offseason and launched an ongoing investigation into an incident that took place near his old college Ohio State with an ex girlfriend. Elliot was never convicted of a crime by the police department, but the NFL found that he was guilty of domestic violence by their own investigation and interview with the victim. His appeal was eventually denied and he was suspended for 6 games in the middle of the season essentially making the Cowboys miss the playoffs. Elliot continues to preach his innocence until today and it still is hard to believe that the NFL found more evidence against Elliot than the police did.
13 Giants SpyGate
Apparently before the Patriots were so successful videotaping and stealing signs of their opponents, the Giants decided to give it their shot at doing something similar. According to a reporter working for the Toronto Mail and Globe implied that the Giants had an edge by somehow intercepting the other teams radio transmissions from the sidelines in the middle of games. During the 2000-2001 playoffs they managed to upset the Minnesota Vikings and beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round. They questionably destroyed the Vikings in the NFC Championship. Then in the Super Bowl where it would be relatively impossible to cheat with the entire world watching, they were blown out by the Baltimore Ravens who had one of the best defences of all-time. After scoring 41 points the week before, Kerry Collins could only lead his team to 7 points, which seems pretty fishy.
12 NFL Hides Certain PED Tests
Performance enhancing substances have been a major problem in professional sports for quite some time. It is pretty strange that in the NFL there are very few cases each year where players are busted for using PEDs. It has been rumoured that the NFL picks and chooses which players they want to publicly announce that test positive for such substances. For a more notable player like hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning or hall of fame line backer Ray Lewis they might sweep it under the rug and for some average player they will bust him for it. Both of those players were rumoured to be linked to PEDs later in their careers but nothing ever materialized. It just seems odd that baseball is the sport that got caught majorly for steroids and not football where size and strength mean everything at certain positions.
11 Super Bowl III
Many casual fans mistake this as the first Super Bowl because this was the first competitive game between the NFL and AFL. Back then the Super Bowl was the meeting of the best team from the NFL and the best team from the AFL. The NFL dominated the first two meetings and was widely considered the better football league. The Baltimore Colts lead by quarterback Johnny Unitas were considered by many as the best team in all football. That did not stop the quarterback from the other team Joe Namath to come out and guarantee a win against the Colts. The Jets indeed beat the Colts 16-7, but this lead many to question how Namath was so confident heading into the matchup. Conspiracy theorists have suggested that this game was rigged to generate a buzz around the game of football in America.
10 Modern Concussion Protocol
Recently the NFL has come out and taken a hard stance to improve player safety in the wake of the public revelation of CTE. However the concussion protocol in the middle of games has been lenient since it has been instituted to say the least. Just this season Brian Hoyer was seen twitching on the field and coughing up blood and he still cleared concussion protocol and was reinserted into the game. The funny part about the modern concussion protocol is that they even have a tent that the player goes inside so that no one can see what they are doing to test the player. Anyone watching TV could tell that Hoyer should not have been put back in the game, but the "neuroscientist" on the sidelines somehow found him to be fine.
9 Certain Franchises Are Favoured
Doesn't it seem strange that the same few teams always end up winning or are in the Super Bowl? No we are not just talking about the Patriots. Multiple teams in the NFL have yet to win a Lombardi Trophy, yet the Steelers, 49ers, Cowboys, and Pats have all won at least five Super Bowl titles. The teams that always end up in the big show seem to always have the biggest fanbases as well. When the Cowboys were "America's Team" in the 1990s it seemed like they were going to the Super Bowl every season. In a league that prides itself on having the most parity out of any other professional sports league, it is laughable that 9 teams have won more than three Super Bowls and 13 teams have yet to win a Super Bowl at all. If certain teams already have more fans than the other franchises then it makes sense why the NFL would want those teams to have more success and be in the big games more often.
It was pretty obvious when the Patriots beat the Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship that they were the much better team no matter what ball they played with. However this game lead to one of the biggest scandals in NFL history and ultimately ended in Tom Brady being suspended for four games two seasons later. Brady was accused of having the Patriots' equipment managers deflate footballs so that he could have a better grip in the Foxborough cold. The minimum PSI for an NFL football is supposed to be 12.5 PSI. According to a report from ESPN said that 11 of the 12 game balls were significantly below that level. Even if the balls were a little bit under-inflated did that really give the Patriots a competitive advantage?
7 Patriots Spy Gate
The Patriots are definitely the most scandalous team in NFL history and this is probably the biggest scandal of them all. On their way to a perfect regular season, they were accused of video taping the Jets' defensive signals in a game on September 9th. Who knows how long the Patriots had been doing this and it took a former Bill Belichick disciple Eric Mangini to catch them in the act and bring it to the NFL's attention. It apparently only took Roger Goodell four days to figure out that the Patriots were guilty of illegally filming the Jets' signals. The league called the videotaping very limited, but for some reason fined Belichick the maximum fine possible at $500,000 and that was the largest fine for a coach in NFL history. The team was also fined half of that amount and they also lost their first round picks the following year.
6 Bounty Gate
People will do pretty much anything these days for a little extra cash, so it is no reason why NFL players wouldn't mind making extra money like everyone else. The NFL found out in 2010 from an anonymous Saints player that they were being payed extra money by Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams to target players, more specifically Brett Favre in the in the 2009 NFC Championship game. This bounty scandal reportedly lasted from the time when the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009 up until the 2011 season. The league found this to be a major offence even though multiple Saints came out and said no such program ever existed to the extent that it was being portrayed. They were ultimately fined $500,000 as an organization and had to give up their second-round picks in both 2012 and 2013.
5 League Against Al Davis and the Raiders
Ever since Al Davis became owner of the Raiders in 1972 he felt like the NFL was against his team being successful. During his time as the owner the Raiders he built up a reputation of being rough, tough, and would do anything to win. This rubbed many other teams the wrong way and many people in the league's front office as well. There was even a point when Davis sued the NFL for forcing the Raiders to stay in Los Angeles in 1982. The antitrust lawsuit lasted 11 years and the Raiders eventually won a settlement from the league worth roughly $20 million. This case set a major precedent for all sports teams to be allowed to change cities, even with objection from the league. From that point on the tension was even greater between the league and the team. During these seasons the referees seemed to have it out against the Raiders any chance they got.
4 The Tuck Rule And NFL Referee Preference For The Patriots
No play is a better example of the referees having it out for the Raiders than the infamous "tuck rule" play that happened on the road to the Patriots' first Super Bowl in 2002. Upon further review the play was called an incomplete pass because Brady's arm was moving forward when the sack occurred. The Patriots would go on to win the game and the Super Bowl while the Raiders were left in shambles for years after. This play is the first of many where the referees made a questionable call benefitting the Patriots. This season alone they were the benefactor of a questionable catch by the Steelers Jesse James that was called incomplete, which cost the Steelers the game. What makes it even more suspicious is that the first person to congratulate Brady on winning the AFC Championship against the Jaguars this season was a referee.
3 NFL Football Monopoly
Football has overwhelmingly become the number one sport in America, so in turn it has become a billion dollar business. Many football leagues have tried to take on the NFL and many have failed. The most notable league created to compete with the NFL was the AFL the American Football League that eventually merged with the NFL when both leagues were just getting started. Other leagues have been created since then like the USFL, the Arena Football League, and the XFL, but all of those upstarts had no chance against the giant that was already the NFL. Infamously the USFL and former USFL team owner Donald Trump sued the NFL for having a "monopoly" over the game of football, but they only won $3.76 in the lawsuit. The only major football league to exist and continue to have success has been the Canadian Football League that has existed since 1958.
2 Concussions And CTE
The NFL tried to ignore the warning signs of the effect concussions had on players until it was far too late. In 2002 a neuropathologist named Dr. Bennet Omalu did an autopsy of former Steelers legend Mike Webster. What he found when examining Webster's brain changed the game of football forever. He discovered the Webster was suffering from a previously undiscovered degenerative brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy that was making his brain get hard and brittle. This disease much like Dementia causes the victim to lose memory and effects mood and emotions similar to Alzheimer's as well. Many former NFL players have been proven to have CTE after they have passed on because the disease can only be detected once someone has already passed away. Most recently Aaron Hernandez who committed murder and killed himself in jail was proven to have CTE and his family is suing the NFL because of it.
1 Games Are Predetermined
In football, holding could virtually be called on every play by a referee and the average fan would not know the difference. That set up would make it easy for the NFL to rig pretty much any game they wanted and sway most outcomes the way they see fit. Brian Tuohy (a professional sports conspiracy theorist) says sports leagues like the NFL can fix the outcome of pretty much every game that they want. He truly believes that the games are somewhat controlled by people who are not playing in the games and are no different than any other scripted show or movie you would find on television. This theory is farfetched, but the NFL did steal things like camera placement and on field interviews from the XFL. So maybe they decided to steal from the WWE too and have all their games be scripted as well.