Behind closed doors and sold-out stadiums lies the reality of the game. The NFL has masked itself behind large fan bases—covering up decades of corruption underneath million dollar sponsorships. More often than not, the league appears more concerned with securing the brand of the sport rather than addressing the cheating, domestic abuse, or mental disability scandals coming from players on the field.
“Our business is to win games,” said Jerry Angelo, a former General Manager for the Chicago Bears, who during his time as GM lead the Bears to win four division titles and reach Super Bowl XLI in 2007. However, Angelo states how disciplinary action towards some players would have placed the team in a competitive disadvantage.
“We’ve got to win games, and the commissioner’s job is to make sure the credibility of the National Football League is held in the highest esteem. But to start with that, you have to know who’s representing the shield.”
And by avoiding the underlining issues, that credibility is lost. In 2015, The New England Patriots faced heavy criticism for tampering with the footballs in the AFC Championship, which secured them a spot in Super Bowl XLIX.
The scandal, better known now as “DeflateGate,” wasn’t the NFL’s first high profiled case. A few years prior, football players from the New Orleans Saints were accused of purposely injuring members of the opposing team for a payment.
When a new scandal comes to light every football season, the NFL’s dignity diminishes. Efforts to stay ahead of the game are losing them field coverage instead of gaining positive attention, and what’s worse, is that the overarching league doesn’t seem to care.
Most often, players are not disciplined for their actions, which allows for a continuous cycle of scandals. When winning is the only thing on the NFL’s mind, so long as they’re not losing, they don’t see the mental and physical and psychological effects four quarters can have.
Human health remains benched on the sidelines.
“I see a concussion movie every Sunday for free,” said Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. “Don’t need to go to the theater.”
Long-term brain injuries have been waging a war between the league and professional doctors who are looking out for the health of the athletes. Like many prior, their research is often discarded and defamed—as pictured in Sony’s recent movie Concussion.
The movie focuses on the death and trauma of NFL athletes and the NFL’s efforts to hide the truth in pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu’s research.
The late Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Mike Webster was viewed as “crazy,” however, his mental state wasn’t that of a “crazy” man at all, but rather, of a sick man. Yet, his story went through countless editing processes to please the organization who caused him this pain.
According to an email by Dwight Caines, President of Domestic Marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment, many “unflattering moments for the N.F.L.” were altered “for legal reasons with the N.F.L… it was not a balance issue.”
The film didn’t portray the full effects of Dr. Omalu’s research. Their corporate denial affected their own company doctors, targeting one of their fellow colleagues in the medical community.
These doctors tried to make Dr. Omalu’s research disappear from scientific journals, threatening him for defiling the nation’s most popular sport. They turned their backs on him for the sake of the organization who tried to diminish their work.
The N.F.L. has chosen to pay their way out of several lawsuits brought against them. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been given to about 5,000 retired football players rather than making the game a safe and healthy environment. Scandals don’t win Super Bowls, sportsmanship does—a lesson the league has yet to learn.