Resources that shine a critical light on the NFL

Originally published at: Resources that shine a critical light on the NFL | Boing Boing


The NFL and its feeder organisation, NCAA football, are rotten from end to end. The baked-in racism covered so well in the FPP is only one (albeit especially horrific) aspect of the institutionalised dysfunction. This is a sport run by a cartel; in which gameplay is dictated by television advertising; where venues for games are corporate-welfare boondoggles that drain public coffers; whose college farm teams regularly cheat both players and non-players out of funding and of educational opportunities; the cultural popularity of which is grounded mainly in the most sordid form of degenerate gambling.

I get that people like watching the pursuit of athletic excellence. I just don’t know how that isn’t completely ruined when an organisation like the NFL or FIFA or the IOC is running a particular sport.


You summed up why I am very glad to see this topic on BB. The brutality, racism, and commodification of athletes are all horrifying. The funding of these practices and organizations just makes me angry. I wish this got more media attention, because I don’t believe most of the public is aware of how they are paying for this.


I forgot to mention the jingoism and military recruitment aspect of the NFL. More grossness.


I too am glad to see this post. Despite some changes, American football is still a horrific spectacle, in so many ways.

And in case anyone misses the Dave Zirin piece at the end of the post about Damar Hamlin’s horrible event, which also exposed the NFL’s callous treatment of its workers:

the horror turned to outrage when, after Hamlin was removed from the field, it was announced that the players—visibly traumatized by the extent of the medical intervention to stabilize Damar—would have five minutes to warm up, and then play would resume. The callousness of this league never ceases to shock. Players are treated like equipment—easily found, easily disposed of. The valorized football phrase “next man up” is really saying that when your coworker is disabled, it’s your turn in the thresher.

But the players and coaches on the Bengals and Bills had seen enough and they refused to “play.” While the league was still twiddling its thumbs, coaches were meeting, players were getting dressed, and, at their behest, the game would be postponed. It’s important to note that the league only called the game after player reps from both teams contacted the union, the NFLPA, which informed the league that the game was done. This was a workplace action. Participants exercised their collective power and demanded that their trauma, their grief, their very humanity be recognized.

Finally, 59 minutes after the fact, after the players and coaches made the decision for him, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, announced that the game would be postponed.


The NFL really showed their ass when it appeared they were OK with continuing the Bills and Bengals game after a Bills player collapsed on the field from a cardiac event and was having CPR performed on him for 9 min, plus and AED.

It took the players and coaches of both teams going, “Nah, we aren’t playing more tonight.”

Thought, I guess if one thinks about it, there are a lot of jobs I have worked at where is someone had a heart attack on the job, we would be expected to just keep going after the EMTs left. No one is shutting down a Walmart for the rest of the day because someone collapsed! :confused:


NFL is now denying they ever considered starting the game again.

I used to watch NFL football every Sunday or whatever day my Broncos were playing. Stopped watching about 10 years ago and am really enjoying the extra time. My recollection of injuries in games I used to watch was that, as a rule, players referees and coaches all stood around ignoring injured players on the ground. So maybe it’s getting better?


The game literally happened only two days ago, and there were cameras everywhere, yet the NFL would still try to gaslight everyone… color me shocked.


There is an argument to be made that doing whatever you need to do to hold the audience in their seats until the EMS has cleared the parking lot is a very good idea, so they don’t get caught in the sea of exiting vehicles. That said, I have no evidence at all that this was the rationale behind this cluster fuck of a decision.




I was stunned by the ‘five minutes to warm up and then return to play’ thing as I watched the Hamlin injury play out Monday night.

It was clear just from the emotions on the faces of the players and coaches that no such thing would be happening.

I can only hope that at best someone was simply blindly following whatever standard action plan they have for player injuries, rather than actually considering it to be a valid option.


I agree with the other posters that this is a great topic for this community and thank you for bringing this perspective. Football is a brutal sport, but it’s also one that brings people great joy. This dichotomy and the massive scale of the NFL makes this an eternal debate in a way that other sports just don’t trigger, even if they have higher incidence of injuries. For better or worse, football occupies a singular place in American culture and it’s important to actually discuss it with a sensitivity toward everyone’s perspective.

When this topic comes up, the health and well-being, whether that’s physical, emotional, financial or even the complexities of dealing with fame is centered in the conversation. Unfortunately, this often takes the form of abstraction, blanket accusations and dehumanization that in many ways ends up totemizing and victimizing the people actually affected; the players and their families. Regardless of our high emotions around the subject, theirs is the primary perspective that really matters and also the one that is least listened to. And when we actually listen to them, it’s pretty clear that the complexities of the debate are not lost on them, but in fact a daily reality and struggle for them as well.

There are a few things that everyone but the most pigheaded fans can agree on:

The NFL is a cruel and deceitful organization that centers profit over players.

Black men are disproportionately the recipients of this cruelty and dehumanization and many players of all races suffer greatly for their involvement. This is also true of the NCAA, MLB, NBA, etc. They all have miles and miles to go before it can ever be considered equitable. And unfortunately, because of the makeup of society, professional sports are often the only avenue many young people see to a viable future for them and their families.

The game of football has for all of its existence relied on the brutality of the game as a draw which, in turn, has bred an often nasty audience that often acts out the on-field violence in their own lives.

That being said, I think it’s crucial to once again bring the framing back to the people that matter most; the players and their families. When this subject comes up it is almost as if they are being referred to as avatars of our projected anguish instead of very intelligent people with heart, perspective and, like it or not, a deep love of the game. Jason and Travis Kelce are two current NFL players and brothers who started a podcast this year that is really unprecedented. It presents the inside players’ perspective of the NFL and all of its disgusting glory. I was anticipating this week’s pod because I knew they would center it on the man at the center of this issue in a heart-felt way that would help bring perspective and framing of not only Damar’s humanity, but the very real humans who play for this league. If anyone is interested in how the players themselves are coping and dealing with this trauma, it’s absolutely worth the time, the first 9 mins, especially.

Lastly, I also think it’s worth taking the time to actually center the man who has tipped off this latest debate in a way I’m sure he would never have wanted. It’s so easy to hold them as an abstract bloc, but these players are a varied in their backgrounds, their motivations and their heartbreak as each and every one of us. Let’s please try to keep that perspective when discussing this emotionally wrought subject. He worked extraordinarily hard to get where he is and it’s worth honoring him.

DB Damar Hamlin #3 and his momma.


They finished the game when it happened in '71


None of that is happening in either the FPP or the comments. This is a discussion about the horrible and racist organisations that run football and how they mistreat very human players. MLB and the NBA have their issues with mistreating and disrespecting players, but nowhere near to the degree of institutionalised destruction wrought by the NFL and NCAA football. It is those organisations that totemise and victimise the players.

An avenue that’s frequently a dead-end street. Two stats to consider: median NFL salary is $860k/year and average career length is about 3.3 years. $2.5-million is a lot of money, but it comes at the price of a lifetime’s worth of chronic physical pain (and perhaps CTE), medical bills, and post-retirement job opportunities limited by what for many is effectively no more than a HS education. Couple that with the facts that a lot of these young men don’t have access to proper financial planning, are surrounded by parasites, and are pressured to spend lavishly while they’re playing and there’s a reason a lot of ex-pro’s have to scramble as small-time insurance or car salesmen to avoid falling into penury.

Yes, dreams of reaching one’s athletic potential in a game one loves are wonderful, as is the hard work required to make them a reality. However, when it comes to football they end up coming at a high cost to all but the most fortunate players and – as noted by myself and others above – to wider American society. Everyone, including the players, would be better off if the entire American football system – from Pop Warner to HS ball to the NCAA and especially the NFL – could somehow be burned to the ground and re-built fresh. That’s not going to happen, but at this point it’s also the only way that the narrative of this sport could ever be credibly re-centred around the players and their love of the game instead of around the highly toxic aspects that you and everyone else here are bringing up.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of either football or futbol, but when I was younger I enjoyed Olympic games events and attended two in person. Now, after seeing what a rotten and destructive organisation the IOC is, I’m done with it. My life somehow goes on without it.


Sometimes things people love turn out not to be worth it. You can see that discussion happening right now with Harry Potter. Somehow the whole rest of the world manages to find great joy in things like the other football and baseball and even hockey that aren’t quite so brutal.


I’d venture to say more young people know of those who didn’t make it than the few who did. So they know damn good and well that’s not the “only avenue:”

Of course, that’s starting from college. Note the number of high school players in the article, too. Most of them already know that being a professional athlete is not in the cards. All this is why we need to make sure the money in academics is going to the majority - who will be pursuing careers in other industries.


Well, not in this thread, fortunately (not sure what FPP is, tbh).

Yeah, I agree. But the reality is that isn’t going to happen just as it isn’t going to happen in the US criminal justice system. In light of that it’s crucial to understand the nuances and how the league can be pressured to act. For instance, 100% of the very meager change that was enacted over the past few years has come from the NFLPA (players assoc.). The “burn it down” mentality didn’t help them achieve their aims, but pressure from the public that understood the nuance of the issue sure did.

Yeah, sure they do. But I still love the Harry Potter books and trust my children to navigate the nuance of that issue when they are old enough to. It’s quite possible to both love something and hate the well it springs from. Likewise, it’s damn near impossible to find anything to love that is unimpeachable. Music, the arts, cars; all of these are things that people have strong attachments to but are rife with issues, many of them the same as football (the riskiest thing a football player does is drive to and from the stadium).


Front Page Post. Jennifer Sandlin’s article.

Which knows how seriously dysfunctional the NFL is but can only push so far. Even when players are speaking in their own venues (like the podcast), the fear of being shut out or punished by the cartel means they’re never speaking on their own terms. As a result, meagre change is all we’re ever going to see from that union.

What’s needed is pressure from the fans, but as you note above this sport fosters a particularly nasty and callous fan base that has more in common with the owners than the players. If American football fans really cared about the players, they’d have long ago organised a one-season boycott of the NFL to exercise real pressure.

It ultimately becomes a question of what we can do without. Dumping support for NFL football should be easy enough, especially for people who truly care about the players.


For a start, they could make sure no for-profit sports organization abuses non-profit status. Tighter rules on what non-profit actually means would help. Make those organizations pay for everything themselves - like smaller businesses have to do. Ensure they pay their fair share of taxes, as well as the owners and administrators. College athletes should be compensated based on their contributions, and it should be treated like the job that it has always been.

I’d bet those issues with excessive salaries for coaches and executives would simply correct themselves after that… :thinking:

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