As long as I’ve been alive there have been two constants on Sunday: church and football. Thanksgiving always came with football on the TV, and Superbowl Sunday was an event. The revenue the NFL brings in is the most among the four major sports, baseball, basketball, football and hockey. Though the excitement of the NFL is in some ways unparalleled, the lows of the NFL are also mind-boggling.
But over the past handful of years, the NFL has been in the news mostly because of the headlines off the field. Colin Kaepernick, Tyreek Hill and Ray Rice. The way the NFL has handled those occurrences is why I’ve fallen out of love with the NFL.
The Ray Rice situation was one of the first cases of domestic violence that the NFL publicly handled as poorly as they could. When the situation first came to public knowledge, it was portrayed as a minor physical incident. Calling that altercation a minor physical incident turned out to be a significant understatement. TMZ released a video four days after Rice and his wife, Janay Rice, were arrested that showed Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator. Watching it was a disgusting experience.
Despite the video evidence provided by TMZ, the NFL concluded that Rice would only be suspended two games. TMZ got sent another video of Rice punching his girlfriend inside the elevator. Once that video was released, the NFL upped Rice’s suspension, and the Baltimore Ravens suspended him. Still, the initial punishment was way too light considering the video evidence that they had at their disposal. Tom Brady got suspended four games for “being aware” that the footballs were being deflated. Four games.
How the NFL wasn’t able to acquire a video of this, but TMZ was able to still warrants some serious questioning. How did the NFL not get the video first? Were they not as diligent and thorough in their search? You would think that the NFL would learn from this incident, right?
In their defense, the NFL upped their domestic violence stance and increased the suspension. A first offense would now result in a six-game suspension. The second strike triggers a lifetime ban. The problem is that NFL general managers regularly give chances to people with these character flaws because of how well they play football. The risk is not as high as the reward.
Recently, the Tennessee Titans drafted a player Ñ Jeffery Simmons Ñ who was caught on video punching a woman multiple times as she lay on the street. During the NFL draft, ESPN showed the video. Nielsen reported that 6.1 million people watched. 6.1 million people watched a guy get millions of dollars and no repercussions for punching a woman. Why was he drafted? He’s a good football player. Morality goes out the window if you’re a good football player.
Just last week, Tyreek Hill once again was in the news for an incident involving the mother of his three-year-old son. While in college, Hill pleaded guilty to domestic abuse of his pregnant girlfriend. But his blazing speed was enticing enough for him to get drafted despite the very real off the field concerns. Now, people deserve second chances, and that’s something I genuinely believe. Hill was given counseling and seemed to be trying to improve as a person.
Last week, KCTV released audio of a phone call between Hill and his fiancee, Crystal Espinal. Their 3-year-old son had a broken arm, and on the call you can hear Espinal telling Hill that their son is saying that Hill is the one who broke his arm. At one point, Espinal said that their son was “terrified of Hill.” Hill responded, ‘You need to be terrified of me, too, b—-.’” Hill is currently suspended from team activities with the Kansas City Chiefs, but it’s becoming clear what type of person Hill is. Ray Rice has become an advocate for bringing awareness to domestic violence. Hill has gone the opposite way.
Just last December, Hill’s teammate, Kareem Hunt, was released after video showed him kicking a woman. The NFL has to become more strict about these types of occurrences.
The examples I gave are just a few in a long line of NFL players with violent offenses against women with minor repercussions. Meanwhile, former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was not in an NFL uniform this season and probably for the foreseeable future because he stood up for his beliefs on social issues. When Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem, he was going against what the owners wanted. The owners want players to stand for the national anthem as a sign of “respect” for this country. Kneeling during the anthem is a peaceful protest, nothing radical. But the NFL owners want to make sure they don’t lose any investors over the protest because money is the number one priority on their list.
Was Kaepernick the best QB ever? No. However, he helped lead a team to a Super Bowl and had a record of 28-30. He’s done enough to earn a backup job somewhere around the league. A researcher for Theundefeated.com, Martenzie Johnson, has kept track of the number of QBs signed since Kaepernick has been out of the NFL and it’s a staggering amount. Eighty-five quarterbacks have signed since the former 49er opted to become a free agent.
The iffy stance on Domestic Violence Ñ in an era where the #MeToo movement is at the height of its popularity Ñ makes me believe that the higher ups running the NFL don’t have a sense of morality and a lack of compassion for retired players. NBA Star LeBron James said on his show with HBO, The Shop, that “In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality,” James said. “And it’s like, ‘This is my team. You do what the f*** I tell y’all to do. Or we get rid of y’all,’” and it’s hard to disagree with him.