3 Opinions About the Relationship between Football and Not Football
NFL player Ray Rice committed domestic violence. He got suspended for 2 games by the NFL. Video footage showing the attack was released. Then he got released from his team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. Many have reacted passionately about this, taking the position that the NFL should have done far more, far sooner. I have 3 opinions about these reactions.
My first opinion is one I’ve held a long time. Americans idolize sports. Sports, particularly the NFL, have become a god in our culture. We plan our schedules around them, talk about them 24/7, and, most on point to the current discussion, we idolize the players. This makes zero sense. We don’t know, in almost all cases, what kinds of men they are. We shouldn’t think of them as role models. It’s because football is an idol industry that what these players do off the field is even on the radar. It’s because it’s an idol industry that the NFL even has a vested interest in protecting their brand from bad characters.
My second opinion follows from the first. If we would stop idolizing sports and idolizing athletes, the NFL wouldn’t really have a role to play in regards to non-football related player conduct. Football is just a sport. The only discipline the NFL should deal with is that which relates to football games. Why do we look to the NFL to be some sort of moral voice in our culture? Is it because we’ve rejected other, more legitimate moral voices? Are we filling a void? It’s absurd! Are we really going to express moral outrage over domestic violence today because Ray Rice got caught (as opposed to every other day when it goes on in our own towns and cities)? Is he our scapegoat? Is the NFL? Are we venting the rage we feel towards ourselves for doing less about violence we might encounter in our own real-life context?
My third opinion follows from the first and second. There are much better means to address these issues than to have an institution like the NFL try to address them. First, we have the legal process. One of the most ridiculous opinions I’ve heard recently is the call for the NFL to suspend players thaT haven’t even been found guilty in the legal system yet! On what grounds? We have to give our justice system the opportunity to do its job. Sometimes that system fails. But all is not lost in such situations. There are other means to oppose evil. An NFL owner with integrity, in such a scenario, could boldly kick such a player off his team. A GM with integrity could do the same. The teammates of the player could refuse to play with him (forcing the hand of the owner and/or GM). The fans could choose to boycott. The clearer the facts, the more live the above options become (and that’s just the way it should be).
The way forward is not for the NFL leadership to become better at policing their players. The way forward is for those worshiping football to just become fans again (at most). The way forward is for NFL leadership to stop taking themselves so seriously and, instead, focus on the fact that they are in charge of a GAME. The way forward is for people of integrity, at all levels, to stand up for what is right and against what is wrong… on a daily basis.