That's it. After forty years of watching NFL football, it's over. I cannot in good conscience watch another game, especially knowing what I know about the league and the devastating effects playing the game can have long after the players have hung up their cleats.
I loved football and I loved to watch the show. Following in my father's footsteps, I played the game from an early age until high school, when fortunately for me I decided to switch sports and took up rowing.
My father was not so lucky. He went on to play professional football, suffered a number of concussions, one of which ended his career. I had the unenviable task of watching him decline both physically and mentally, most probably suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease that attacks the brain to bring on memory lapses, personality disorders, and progressive dementia. He died prematurely, like most professional football players, at the ripe old age of 56, some twenty years less than he could have otherwise expected to live.
Personal family tragedy aside, what has really turned me off the NFL is how it treats its players and how it exploits its fans.
Half of the owners of NFL teams are billionaires. Together, they make over 8 billion a year from football operations, yet they are incredibly cheap bastards. I guess that's how they became billionaires.
Repeatedly, the owners hold their loyal fans hostage by threatening to move the team if taxpayers don't come up with the cash to build a new stadium at public expense. Moreover, the league is exempt from anti-trust legislation and, get this, was determined to be a non-profit organization. WTF?
When it comes to the players, it is a plantation mentality that rules, which is not surprising since 70% of the players are black. Keep in mind there are no African Americans who own a NFL team.
Essentially, the players are cannon fodder. The average career lasts three years. Long enough to incur long-term debilitating injuries, but not long enough to qualify for disability insurance, which is only in effect up to five years after a player retires from the game, a detail that disadvantages the players since the long-term effects of playing the game tend to show up later.
In short, the owners transfer the health costs of treating the broken shells of former players to the taxpayers. Having to deal with the pain and the disabilities, many former NFL veterans are unable to hold onto a job and fall into poverty, leaving the state to pick up their medial bills.
What's worse is the league has been in a state of denial over the long-term consequences of repeated head injuries associated with CTE and only recently settled out-of-court with the former players who had filed against a class action suit against the league. The settlement, a paltry $750 million, which may seem like a lot but in reality is the revenue generated by only 8 televised Monday-night games. This works out to be only $150,000 per former player named in the suit, not nearly enough to cover the long-term care that many of the former players will need.
All in all, the players get screwd by the owners, the fans pay dearly for having the pleasure of watching the violence-ridden spectacle, and the owners are laughing all the way bank.
No wonder NFL football is by far the most popular professional sport. The league is quintessentially American in the manner it conducts its affairs.
But count this boy out. The air waves are glutted with sports programming, and I have decided to boycott the NFL and watch something else.
I encourage you to do the same.