The Great NFL Boycott of 2014

posted by @HeyItsKamo

I wrote this Tumblr post awhile back about a tweet that I read, claiming that we (the American people, I guess?) should boycott the National Football League. With all the controversial suspensions going on lately, I thought it was time to take another look.Brady LOL


Someone I follow on Twitter retweeted something the other night that caught me a bit off guard. It’s not that I totally disagree with the point the individual who wrote the tweet was
trying to make (hey, you can’t have a “wrong” opinion, right?), but something about it just rubbed me the wrong way.

The more I thought about it, the more perplexed I became. What did they mean? Was this a troll post, used to get angry replies and a rise out of people? Or was this pure ignorance on how the National Football League, and the entire world of professional sports, works?

The tweet read:

“And there are *so many* reasons to boycott the NFL. The brain damage, the homophobia, the racist mascots, the uneven profit distribution.”

I’d like to start off by saying that I’m not claiming to be a huge football or NFL super-fan. I’m from Buffalo, and that alone should be reason enough for me to show a love-hate interest in the NFL and is a good indicator on exactly where I’m coming from. In most respects, I’m more of a casual fan, in that I watch the first few weeks of the season (say, weeks 1-5) and by then the Bills probably haven’t won their first game yet, and my interest has begun to wan significantly. I’m more interested in the return of football season for the chicken wings and beer at the local bar anyway, but after three terrible losses by the Home Team, even delicious wings sometimes aren’t enough to keep me going.

I only mention this because I’m not here to claim that I know a lot about football or the NFL, I only claim to know as much as the next passive “fan” does. Well…maybe a bit more than I’m leading on, but I guess that’s for you to judge.

I think the first sentence of the now Infamous Tweet struck me the most. “And there are *so many* reasons to boycott the NFL.” Well, yeah…of course there are. There are a lot of reasons not to pet an angry dog too. The tweeter goes on to list a few reasons, all good arguments for boycotting the league in my book, but the first sentence is the most important. How would one “boycott the NFL”? You mean, boycott the league completely? How would this even be feasible? You could stop going to games, but then what?

*for the record, this tweet did not come from someone who appears to be a season ticket holder…or someone who has attended many NFL games*

If you were to boycott the NFL, you have to look at the big picture. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar (annually) sports league, providing entertainment for fans the world over, and it is without question one of the biggest and most profitable of the major sports leagues (I keep wanting to say “corporations” although “monopolies” might be a better term…). And when I say “biggest and most profitable sports leagues” I don’t just mean in the United States or in the past 50 years. I mean the entire world and also, well, EVER. Like, in the history of sports on this planet, the NFL is at the top of the pyramid in terms of popularity and profit.

So let’s say I’m on board. I’m going to boycott the NFL! They’ve been getting away with too much for too long, and my Twitter followers and I are going to put a stop to their crap once and for all. In order to effectively boycott the league, I would have to: stop buying tickets to games each week, stop paying my cable and internet provider as most games are televised or readily available online, turn off my radio so I no longer hear the broadcasts of games each week, stop buying NFL related video games (the Madden series, among others), stop buying any NFL related merchandise (jerseys, bumper stickers, coasters, cups, shot glasses, key chains, blankets, coats, gloves, hats, magnets, book marks, t-shirts, toasters, clocks, replica helmets, light switch covers, pens, wind chimes, and so on), cancel my phone/cable/internet account with Verizon, cut up my Visa credit card, cancel my car insurance with State Farm and trade in my General Motors Buick, stop shipping all of my online purchases via FedEx, and stop eating Papa John’s pizza (they suck anyways, sorry Papa).

This also means no more Campbell’s soup for when I have a cold. Big Macs and anything from the dollar menu at McDonald’s are now a thing of the past (probably for the better). Say “goodbye” to 5 Dollar Footlongs from Subway. I also have to stop buying anything made by Mars Snack Foods, who produce Pedigree food for my Doge and Whiskas for my Grumpy Cat. I also have to give up M&Ms, 3 Musketeers, Combos (NOOO!), Milky Way bars, Snickers, Twix, Uncle Ben’s rice, Seeds of Change, Wrigley’s 5 gum, Extra Gum, LifeSavers, Orbit chewing gum, Skittles, Juicy Fruit, and Starburst, the unexplainably juicy soft taffy candy treat.

I also just gave up drinking Bud Light, Gatorade, and Pepsi products. Now I have to go out and buy a Mac because Apple doesn’t sponsor the NFL; Microsoft does, so that also means I’ll have to stop playing NHL 14 on my Xbox 360 and go out and buy a PlayStation instead. I just traded in my Gillette razor for something with a mere two blades- TWO BLADES! I have to shave my face like some kind of a damn savage caveman now! No more Old Spice and no more Duracell batteries to power my, well, just about everything that needs a battery to run it.

What I’m getting at is it would be almost fucking impossible to boycott the NFL, financially at least. It seems that just about everyone is a sponsor, from the food we eat to the internet provider we subscribe to. I obviously went to an extreme with the above few paragraphs, but I’m just trying to prove a point. You can’t boycott the NFL. You can dislike it and not watch the games, and you can try your damnedest not to support the league because of the reasons mentioned in the above tweet, but it’s fucking impossible to boycott this league.

You’d even have to go as far as discouraging the youth from playing football. It’s not like players just decide on a whim to try out for the NFL- that shit is seeded into you at a young age. Kids dream their entire lives of playing for the Dallas Cowboys or New York Jets. You’d have to effectively cut all interest in football so that the NFL runs out of players to recruit. No more Pop Warner or High School football for our sons (and in some cases our daughters). Go play baseball, little Jimmy, the MLB is much more fair.

Next the tweeter gives the reasons for boycotting the league- again; all justifiable if I hadn’t already proved boycotting the NFL is impossible. The first reason, “The brain damage” is probably the one that would (no pun intended) hit closest to home for a lot of fans.

If you thought about it, and probably not even all that hard, you’d be able to name a handful of close friends or family members that have in some way had their lives impacted by sports related injuries. I can think of several, including myself. As a lifelong hockey fan and goaltender, I’ve suffered numerous knee and back injuries, one of which was a year-long recovery from a torn knee that still affects me to this day. I even played football when I was younger, and after a particularly nasty hit in a game late in the season, I quit after our final game- it just wasn’t for me.

Was I scared of getting hurt when I played? Absolutely- how could I not be?

I think the main argument against boycotting due to the risk of “brain damage” would be: it is assumed that players in the NFL (and any major/minor sports league, for that matter) are well aware of the bodily harm and other negative consequences that are a result of playing their sport. Granted, most of them probably aren’t thinking that at the age of 50 they may have to have someone help dress them every morning, but still. The risk has always been there, and it always will be.

Dale Earnhardt drove a car his entire life, but who thought that the way he earned his living would also take his life?

They say to Assume makes an Ass out of U and Me, but I’m sorry- injuries are a huge part of the game and should be expected, even at the professional level where players have access to literally the best doctors on the planet. All NFL clubs have personal trainers, psychiatrists, dentists, dietitians, and the best medical staff that money can buy. Still, the countless head-shots that an NFLer will take over their career will take their toll. These guys might not be thinking they will suffer from brain damage down the road, but that thought should be looming in their minds regardless.

Junior Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowl nominated linebacker for the San Diego Chargers (among other teams), played in the NFL for twenty years. TWENTY YEARS. AS A LINEBACKER! Can you imagine the amount of times violent trauma was unleashed upon his poor Samoan head? He played twenty years longer than individuals who leave football after playing at the college level, and even college players can suffer from brain damage later in life.

Sadly, Seau took his own life, and many suspect that brain damage suffered from hits he took (or dished out) while playing football had a lot to do with his suicide. After his death, it was revealed that he suffered from depression, which is a side effect of a disease known as CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy). CTE affects those with a history of head trauma, something that isn’t new to the NFL and players like Seau. Ex-Buffalo Bills Running back and AFL legend Cookie Gilchrist, who stopped playing the game in 1966, died from the effects of CTE in 2011 at the age of 75.

With all of that being said (and you might think I sound like a real dick here), I don’t have much sympathy for professional athletes that suffer injuries, even those with injuries as serious as Seau and Gilchrist. Back in the days of Gilchrist, the science wasn’t there to prove football will have any type of effect on your brain, which is unfortunate for gridiron legends of days past, but today there is. If individuals still choose to play the game, knowing full well that they can suffer life-threatening, life-changing (and sometimes life-ending) consequences, well, that’s on them. Players today are more than compensated financially (you might be raising a red flag here- just wait until I get to the part about “uneven profit distribution”) for their play.

What, I’m supposed to feel sorry for a guy like, I don’t know, Houston Texans Wide receiver Andre Johnson? Johnson is making $6.5 million this season, and despite suffering a concussion in the middle of September, he was back playing the very next week. He didn’t even miss a game! His head is all sorts of fucked up and instead of saying, “OK, I’m going to take a week off and see how I feel,” he was back out on the field and taking hits not seven days later. You don’t like to see guys get hurt in any sport, but when you put yourself in a situation like Johnson did, it’s tough to feel sorry for them when (not “if”) a bigger injury occurs down the road.

The ways that Gilchrist and Seau died are of course tragic, and it’s sad that it happened the way it did, but no one forced them to play football. You can argue the point that “well, they had no other option, they were only good at football, it was their whole life” and I’ll call bullshit. There’s always another option- Seau and players like him made plenty of money over their career to justify to themselves why playing the game was their “only option”.

Again, this isn’t NASCAR. NFL fans and viewers don’t watch the games and follow their favorite teams to see players get hurt or hurt their opponents, “the crashes” so to speak. It’s not like by watching and supporting the NFL the fans are responsible for the injuries that these guys suffer, especially those that players often times inflict on themselves (hint: running full speed into another person and hitting them with your fucking head). Would it be great if there were tighter rules against head shots? Yes. Would it be even better if helmet technology got to the point where head injuries were a thing of the past? You bet. But don’t blame NFL supporters for “the brain damage”.

It’s tough to blame the league, but who else is there to blame really? The NFL is letting these guys get away with head-shots- granted, they are trying to crack down on the big hits by issuing stricter rules and penalties, but still. I honestly don’t have an answer to the head-shot question- just like fighting in hockey, it will take an on-filed death to change the NFLs outlook on violent hits and head-shots in the sport, but it’s as much a part of the game as halftime and $11 dollar beers at the stadium.

I’m not going to touch much on “the homophobia” point because I’m not in the NFL and I’m not gay. I don’t know what goes on in the locker rooms, what’s said between teammates and opponents. What I can do is talk about the “Machismo” in the world of sports that you encounter at any level.

In organized sports, and even outside for that matter, some individuals think it’s acceptable to use derogatory words to insult opponents and teammates alike. “That’s gay” is, for some reason, used in the place of “That’s stupid/bad/dumb/etc” and I’m still not sure why. I’m a straight guy and I don’t view being homosexual as something that is negative. Is it a huge insult to call a straight person “gay” or “fag” or a female athlete a “lesbian”? I don’t take offense to it when it happens to me, although my fiancée might have a problem with someone calling her husband-to-be any kind of name with a negative intent behind it.

Imagine if someone called you a “fucked up looking trout lover”? How much more offended would you be if they called you “gay” instead? That’s the real question here, as strange as it sounds, because it’s really wider than “the homophobia” in the NFL. It’s not that at all, really, because it’s “your own homophobia” that’s the issue. If you are homophobic, calling a female athlete a “lesbo” or worse may be bad to you, but not necessarily bad to them, unless of course they ARE homosexual or homophobic. They would clearly take offense if they are homosexual, and if they are homophobic, well, what’s worse than calling a homophobic person a “homo”? It’s all about the context.

Using those words negatively is viewed as “being a part of the game” which is obviously fucked up on so many levels, but until it’s addressed at a higher stage, nothing will stop the 16 year-old linebacker from calling the opposing teams running back a “fag”. Even if Derek Jeter tells you not to do it, it won’t stop anything because it’s become so ingrained into everyone that they don’t believe that there is anything necessarily wrong with it, which is wrong in itself.

Unfortunately, “the homophobia” is a part of sports, just like “the racism” and “the sexism” is too. Wait, so you’re telling me that GIRLS play HOCKEY? In the OLYMPICS? Girls? Like, the people that have the boobs? Get out of here, girls can’t play hockey!

“The homophobia” needs to be addressed when players are younger. It needs to be addressed by teammates, friends, family members, or coaches. The NFL isn’t to blame here for bad behavior that stems from years of kids hearing their older brothers call their friends “homo”.

If you remember, Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA for hurling a derogatory slur at a referee. “The homophobia” is being addressed- Deadspin posted a great article about how the NFL is actually leading the world of professional sports in terms of Gay Rights Activism.

I have one name for you: Michael Sam. The first openly gay professional football player is here, and the world is still standing. Dogs aren’t howling at the moon and none of our sons magically became gay. Now that it’s over with, let’s just get back to football.

Jumping from “the homophobia” to “the racist mascots”, I’m not sure I have much to add here. “Racist mascots” meaning what exactly? The Washington Redskins and a handful of college teams with Native American names? The Chicago Blackhawks? Ok, let’s talk about those then, because I’m pretty sure there’s not a team called the Spokane Honky Killers.

The Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL indirectly take their name from Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk American Indian tribe, a prominent figure in the history of Illinois. He was an iconic leader in both relations between tribes and war parties (so, pretty conflicting jobs if you ask me, but still…). He also fought for the British in the War of 1812 and battled against white settlers trying to take over his people’s territory.

So, what was meant as a harmless homage but turned out to actually be more of a huge insult, a hockey team was named after him. Hockey, the sport that is primarily played by European-American white guys…

In actuality, there’s a different history behind the name of the Chicago Blackhawks. The team’s first owner, a guy named Fred McLaughlin, served in the Blackhawk Division in World War I. A group of real tough bastards, they manned machine guns in the 86th Infantry Division. McLaughlin named the Chicago based hockey team after them, not necessarily the Native American chief.

Are teams that use Native American names and logos as their own racist? Yes. Just look at the Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo. Should they be changed? That’s your opinion, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. “The racist mascots” are terrible, but not as bad as “the racism” in sports, just ask Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins. Groups try and get the racist Native American parodies that teams use changed, but the Cleveland Indians and Florida State Seminoles look to be here to stay.

Last up, we have to touch on “the uneven profit distribution”. This one is a doozy because of the staggering amount of money that the NFL, the teams, the coaches, the players, and the staff make. It’s astronomical.

The National Football League makes anywhere from $10 to $15 billion dollars each season, although this total can differ depending on who you ask (I asked my friend, Google). Merchandise and any product that is “officially licensed”, broadcast deals with television networks (FOX, NBC, etc), and advertisements make up the majority of these profits. Ticket revenue is also shared- I believe the cut is 70% of ticket profit goes to the home team and 30% to the visiting team.

So, now that we see how much money the NFL makes each season, let’s take a look at how much the players get. I have to assume that when the tweeter was talking about “the uneven profit distribution” they were talking about the insane amount of money the NFL makes, and the minuscule cut that the players get. Does the uneven profit distribution also include the coaching staff and trainers, as well as the individuals that work in the stadiums?

The average NFL player makes $1.9 million dollars a season. Compare that to the $5.15 million average salary of an NBA player, the $3.2 million of a guy in the MLB, and the $2.4 million a NHLer makes each year. Seems pretty unfair, huh? Especially considering MLB players don’t have to run full speed into each other and possibly suffer brain damage later in life.

But let’s look at it a different way. Your average NFLer is making $1.9 million dollars a season for playing 16 games- this doesn’t count the four pre-season games or any post-season matches, which can mean an additional three games if the team makes it to the Super Bowl. Starters don’t really play in the pre-season as the games are more of an indicator on how rookies will pan out and which player will start at which position. So let’s stick with 16 games for sake of the argument.

In the NHL, there are 82 regular season games, as well as a pre and post-season.

So your average NFLer is getting $1.9 million dollars for playing in at most 19 games (that’s $100k a game, if you weren’t keeping up). That’s 19 games of big hits, lots of running, and plenty of chance for injury. But here’s another interesting statistic: the average NFL game has eleven minutes of play-time.

NFL games, which consist of four quarters of 15 minutes each, see an average play-time of ELEVEN MINUTES. Some of the elite NHL defensemen (you know, the guys that fucking HIT EVERYONE CONSTANTLY?) see up to 27 minutes a game. A GAME! The average NFLer would have to play almost three games to see the amount of playing time an NHLer sees in one match. Multiply that 27 minutes by 82 games (again, let’s not even count the playoffs or games that go into overtime) and I think the average salary is more than fair for NFL players.

NFL practice squad members (guys that aren’t on the starting roster) make around $6,000 a week. The league minimum for a player on the normal roster, meaning they either do or have a chance to play each Sunday is just over $400,000. If you can’t live off of $400k a year (I’m not going to get into the cuts that sports agents get, and we’ve all watched that 30 for 30: Broke episode) then that’s fucked. I have student loans, rent, car payments, utility bills, credit card bills, just a shit load of bills in general, and I get by just fine and don’t make anywhere near $400k a year.

The real question is, is it fair that NFL players get paid less than other sports leagues? It can go both ways- they play less games that the other three major professional sports leagues in North America, play on average less time each game than the other leagues, but the risk is much higher for injury in the NFL. They also have to maintain a certain physical condition, so that occupies a lot of the players’ time in the off season I’m sure.

I’ll do some quick math for you: NFL teams have 53 men on the active roster. 53 multiplied by $1.9 million is $100,700,000. $100.7 million multiplied by 32 teams is $3,222,400,000. Where does the other $10 billion go? I don’t know, and I don’t care because I don’t even make the league minimum in five years of work.

Does the NFL deserve boycotting? I’m not sure why you would unless you aren’t a fan of football. Boycotting the league won’t do anything; it’s not going anywhere because no matter how strongly you feel against it, the fan base is far too large for a boycott to work. The NHL had a lockout last season and not only did ticket prices go UP, games actually had better attendance once the lockout was over. Fans are crazy, we get treated like shit because we don’t care and because we love it. We love it so, so much.

I mean, we all saw how successful the Occupy Wall Street movement went, and that protest was about OUR OWN MONEY.

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