The roar of the crowd, the smell of hot dogs and beer, and bright jersey colors dominate football stadiums across the country. Growing up, I loved watching football on Sundays with my family, cheering for the Niners, and eating homemade nachos. However, as I got older, I began to realize the detrimental effects of football on our society. While football is a major part of American culture, it is imperative that the sport is looked at more critically.
In 2021 alone, there were 3,025 injuries in the NFL. The injuries sustained by “common” tackles can impact players for the rest of their lives. According to the Harvard Medical School, “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a form of traumatic, degenerative brain injury; the symptoms include mental illnesses resulting in substance abuse, decreased social functioning and increased aggression.” According to a study by Boston University, 99% of football players are affected by CTE. The injuries impact their personalities and increase violence both in the sport and outside of it. Traumatic brain injury leads to Alzheimers later in life, impacting both the player and their family chronically. In addition, The NFL concussion protocol is failing players. They are allowed to continue playing, even after getting multiple concussions, not protecting the players. Getting tackled on the field brutally and unapologetically is seen as unremarkable, and sometimes even admirable. The acceptance of such brutality encourages players to continue risking their lives for the entertainment of millions of Americans.
In addition to the injuries inflicted on football players, the team owners themselves ruin the sport through their greed. As the cost of tickets skyrockets, fans bear the brunt of the NFL’s greed. In 2012, the average cost of one ticket was $193. In 2021, however, the cost of one ticket averaged around $457. While this may be due in part to rising inflation, according to the US Inflation Calculator, if the ticket cost was only due to inflation, then the 2021 ticket cost would be $227.78. Their insatiable drive for increasing profits puts the players at risk. In addition, we enable gross amounts of money to be put towards sports, instead of actually important issues. According to Street Sense Media, it would take $15 billion per year to end homelessness in the United States. In 2022 alone, the NFL generated $17.19 billion. The lowest salary in the NFL is $430,000 per year, which is 8 times the average yearly income in the United States. As poverty continues to harm thousands of Americans per year, football contributes to the massive income inequality in this country.
Adding on to the systemic issues with football, far too many of the players themselves have committed domestic violence. As they continue to gain approval and fans, they abuse women. Society enables this culture of abuse. According to the New York Times, “The NFL players’ domestic violence arrest rate is 55.4% of the average for men ages 25-29…among all men ages 25-29, domestic violence accounts for 21% of arrests for violent crime.” The NFL arrest rate for domestic violence is 34.4% higher than the national average for men ages 25-29. Since 2000, 134 players have been convicted of domestic violence, and another 117 have been convicted of assault/battery. In the past 23 years, 5 players have been convicted of domestic violence per year. By continuing to allow these players to play the game, we enable their behaviors, blatantly disregarding the rights of the women they have abused. According to the New York Times, “Even when the changing impact of an arrest over time is considered, an arrested starter in 2019 is expected to play more seasons than a non-arrested backup in any year.” These players face little to no consequences for committing a felony, simply because of their ability to catch a ball well. If we truly care about women’s rights, then we should not allow these men to continue to play after being convicted of domestic violence. According to NFL Arrest, the top 4 crime categories in the NFL are DUI, drugs, domestic violence, and assault/battery. The average NFL player makes around 2.7 million dollars per year. Therefore, any bail posted could be easily paid for. For real examples, the following is a list of just a small few of the many current players that have been arrested for domestic violence/abuse recently: Cedrick Wilson (Miami Dolphins), A.J. Nicholson (Cincinnati Bengals), Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos), and Damian Wilson (Carolina Panthers). It is an unfortunate cycle: Playing football causes CTE, which leads to aggressive behaviors with no consequences for the player, so they continue to play, causing continuing aggressive behavior. However, we cannot allow for any more excuses. These players must face severe consequences for their actions.
Football is a modern-day gladiator sport. It is dystopian that hundreds of thousands of people pay money to cheer on abusive men and enable greedy companies, with zero concern for the true harm to the injured players. According to a national study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “72% of kids see athletes as role models.” We cannot allow children to look up to criminals, and selfish companies enabling the generational cycle of abuse in the NFL. If we truly care about the players, women’s rights, and the future of our American society as a whole, there should be a reformation of the sport and the players involved in it.