The National Football League is the hottest sport in America and it may be the most entertaining brand out there right now. The league is reaching unparalleled levels of success and continues to grow with each year. Ratings for most television shows and products are struggling. Society is starting to cut the cord with cable and is more prone to watching content online or at a later time with DVR. The MLB and WWE are two huge brands that have been seeing ratings decline over the last few years due to these factors. The NFL is bulletproof with this issue and continues to set ratings records. Fans want to watch it live and won’t wait.
Another benefit for the company is the rise of fantasy football. Fans can dedicate one day per week to competing with family, friends or co-workers at making the correct decisions of drafting and starting the players to have statistical success. Fans are consuming the product in various ways and the league is making huge money off of it. These factors help other sports but the NFL has the magic of dedicating just one day of your week to enjoy it. Sunday is the day to relax and watch football for many and the league has exploited it to become a juggernaut.
Despite the unquestioned success, there are plenty of issues that have been going on for years and show no sign of ending any time soon. The NFL has been in the news for various negative stories dealing with both the on-field and off-field aspects of the sport. As great as they are currently doing, too many skeletons in the closet can come back to haunt the league if change and common sense aren’t used to correct them. This list will explore the worst moments the league has seen as we look at the fifteen things the NFL badly wants you to forget.
15. Tom Brady Beat Them In Court
The most recent instance on this list was when Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL tried to suspend Tom Brady for his role in DeflateGate during last season’s playoffs. The league clearly wanted to send a message to the rest of the teams by suspending the golden boy of the New England Patriots. Brady made them look like absolute fools by winning his appeal in court due to the NFL mishandling their investigation. Many didn’t believe Brady would be able to get his suspension reduced but he was able to make it completely disappear. Brady has played every game this season and is strong candidate in the MVP race.
14. Shady Sponsors
The controversy and debate over whether daily fantasy sports should be considered gambling started by the sponsorship deals with the NFL. You can’t watch a football game without hearing about the latest promo codes and deposit bonuses for DraftKings and FanDuel over a hundred times. The sites are getting in hot water with the government and that’s partially due to their overexposure with the NFL. The league also has very strong partnerships with beer companies despite their strict stance on how players conduct themselves off the field. Given the stories of players driving while drunk or the harsh suspensions for using marijuana, you’d think the NFL would be less hypocritical with their sponsors.
13. Touchdown Celebrations Are Fun
The rules and regulations trying to prevent players from celebrating after scoring touchdowns are ridiculous. The referees will issue a penalty if they feel a player celebrates too much or rubs it in the other team’s faces with the logic of “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Give me a break. The touchdown celebrations were hilarious and one of the more fun things about the sport. Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson bringing out props always provided highly entertaining television. Many fans are criticizing Cam Newton for his touchdown dances these days but they are timid compared to the past celebrations. If it offends you that much, stop him from scoring touchdowns.
12. Replacement Refs
One of the more embarrassing stories in recent memory that affected the on-field product was the replacement referees debacle. There was a lockout with the professional referees in 2012 due to a labor dispute. Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to hire scabs to serve as replacements and it was a huge disaster. The replacements made terrible calls that impacted a lot of games but one play will live in infamy. The ending of a tremendous Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers game left a sour taste in the viewer’s mouth. Seattle won on a last second touchdown catch that wasn’t really a catch. The confusion and incorrect call showed just how cheap and petty the wealthy and powerful league truly was.
11. The New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal
The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010 in what was a tremendous story for the league and all of sports. The football team helped the people of New Orleans unite and enjoy a Super Bowl run just a few years after Hurricane Katrina decimated the city. Unfortunately, the Super Bowl run was met with controversy as it was later discovered that the team was giving out cash bonuses to defenders that hit an opposing team’s player hard enough to cart him off the field. The drama that then unfolded between the NFL and the Saints could have been its own movie and ended with huge suspensions being given to a variety of Saints personnel, including head coach Sean Payton. This hurt the reputation and respect for the sport in a deep way.
10. Cheerleaders Are Treated Terribly
Cheerleading used to be viewed as a glamorous job with many women dreaming of being a NFL cheerleader. The facts are that the job is terrible and the women don’t get treated fairly, professionally or personally. The women are judged mostly on their looks and are looked at through a sexist microscope. A Ravens cheerleader once shared a story about being benched for gaining a few pounds. On top of that, they are also quite underpaid. Between the home games, appearances and photo shoots, the cheerleaders do a lot of work for the NFL but aren’t fairly compensated. The Oakland Raiders allegedly used to pay their cheerleaders an annual wage of $1,250, which estimates to $5 per hour for the work they do during a season.
9. Destroyed Spygate Tapes
The New England Patriots love to get an edge over their opponents and have been in the news multiple times for their role in committing shady acts. Spygate was the story of the Patriots video-recording the New York Jets defensive coach signals during a regular season game in hopes of gaining an advantage. The league discovered it and levied out some large punishments. Bill Belichick and the Patriots franchise were each fined huge figures and the team lost a draft pick. The punishment may have matched the crime but the big issue here is that the NFL destroyed the evidence. For some reason, they made sure no one else would ever see the tapes. Why do that if there was nothing to hide?
8. High Percentage Of Criminal Activity Among Players
The NFL has had a huge problem with players getting in trouble with the law over the last few years. Ray Rice was caught attacking his wife in elevator. Greg Hardy has been involved with brutal domestic violence issues. Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of murder. Many more players have been arrested just this year. The league has an issue and it gets worse with each passing year. These arrests happen while they are representatives of the NFL. The numbers of NFL arrests are higher than other sports and most other fields in general. This is a problem and the league is hoping the entertaining on-field product can mask it.
7. Cheap With Benefits
Of all the North American team sports, the NFL is the most violent with risks of athletes damaging their body and overall health. You’d assume they would be the first one to offer top notch benefits to all of the players that put their bodies on the line every week. Wrong. A player must play four years to receive full pension benefits. That doesn’t sound too bad, you say? Well, the average NFL career is three and a half years. The league is making more money than they can keep track of but they’re extremely cheap with their benefits. There’s no doubt the limitations being put out for one to receive the full benefits is something the NFL hopes fans won’t figure out.
6. Offensive Team Name
Over the last few years, one of the biggest debates in the NFL among fans has been whether the Washington Redskins should be forced to change their name. A large percentage of Native Americans find the name offensive and have petitioned for then to get rid of the term Redskins. There are two main points for why this name existing is a joke. If it offends enough people to be a significant discussion, why fight to keep it? There’s an argument to get rid of it but none to keep it. The second reason is how obviously offensive it is. If you don’t get how it can offend a sect of people, you’re not paying attention. The league is avoiding forcing Washington to become progressive.
5. Players Are Underpaid
The NFL is the most successful sport in America. The ratings, attendance and merchandise numbers are all spectacular. The sport may be the biggest thing in North America, yet they don’t give most players a fair contract, when comparing them to other sports. DeMarco Murray was the best running back in the NFL last season and a signed 5 year, $40 million contract in the offseason. NBA role player DeMarre Carroll was given a 4 year, $58 million contract last summer. Jeff Samardzija, who was terrible last year, just received a 5 year, $90 million contract with the Giants. It’s easy to understand why NBA players make more, as they only roster 13 players, as compared to 53 in the NFL, but MLB rosters are large enough that it doesn’t make sense how much more their players makes. NFL players risk their body far more than any other sport and should be the highest paid athletes. The system allows owners to pocket more money and screws the players out of fair competitive pay.
4. Inconsistent Punishments
More than any sport, the NFL likes to practice discipline with suspensions and fines. That would be fine if the rules were fair and consistent. Ray Rice was originally suspended two games for assaulting his wife before public outcry forced the league to increase the suspension, but they truly believed it was only worth two games. Donte Stallworth was suspended one season for driving drunk in an accident that caused a death. Josh Gordon was suspended the same amount of time for smoking pot. It’s hard to compare rules and punishments but the league has shown a history of ignoring domestic abuse but going harshly after silly things like marijuana drug test failures or touchdown celebrations.
The NFL has pretended to become progressive about concussion issues. A human being enduring enough damage to the head can cause drastic damage to their lives. The league has a system today that prevents players from competing until passing tests if suffering concussions. but they were quite late to the party. The problem has been around for years but the league just started to address it after others started speaking up. The film “Concussion” starring Will Smith will be in theaters on Christmas and it explores the NFL turning a blind eye to the dangers. Sony apparently made changes to the film because of the NFL using political sway in hopes of not being completely exposed.
2. The Fact That Roger Goodell Should Be Fired
Most of the stories on this list have been examples of the poor job done by Roger Goodell. The NFL Commissioner has been one of the worst ever at his position and fans have been calling for his head for a while now. Goodell tried to play sheriff by going after the players and hoping to clean the game up by removing bravado and swagger from their style. Goodell is simply a puppet for the owners of NFL teams, but is doing things to negatively affect the players and fans. The fact that Goodell is still in his position is a joke and almost any other business would be forced to make a change after this many failures.
1. The Future Is In Jeopardy
Many of the issues explored here are not getting fixed any time soon and that is going to harm the future of the sport. There is already a movement of parents not allowing their children to play football at a young age due to the dangers of the sport. The best athletes would have to be a fool to put their lives into football, if they have a choice. Why risk your health for a shorter career with less money? Basketball and baseball players are treated better and have longer careers. The NFL also has a mentality of wanting to sell the franchise while the NBA sells the star. There will be a problem in the next ten-to-twenty years of the top athletes not pursuing football. Society is evolving and the idea of a dangerous sport with moral issues may become less appealing as we grow.
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