Full disclosure: (1) I know some NFL players. One of them grew up across the street from me. Another was a customer of a business I owned. (2) My uncle was an All-American football player. (3) An athlete from my hometown won the Heisman trophy. (4) I am an athletically-challenged female who was born in the US before Title IX of the Civil Rights Act became law.
My participation in most sports was as a spectator and at that I excelled. Since my father was an umpire at the local Little League Baseball games. I learned how to score a game when I was still in grade school. I was one of those geeks in the marching band in high school, so I attended every football game. I wrote skits for the pep rallies for the basketball and football teams.
They won more games than they lost. Sometimes they were league champions. There was an innocent, fun sense of community at all those games.
It was fun until it wasn’t.
I still remember that cold, damp September evening when a popular football player tackled an opponent. He lowered his head just before they made contact. It resulted in his permanently damaging his spinal cord in the process. He never walked again.
In college, women could participate in a few intramural sports such as field hockey, but we all knew that sports–the real sports–were for the men. Given how women excel at so many sports today, it’s difficult to understand the mindset of that time.
My attitude started to change when I saw what rock star status the college football players enjoyed. I questioned why they, who just kept repeating a course until the professor finally passed them, were attending college on scholarship. Why did these largely dim-witted men get to go to school for free? Where were the academic scholarships for women such as myself who would actually graduate and earn a degree?
I was still naive. I did not yet realize that it was all about the money. But I did realize that the National Football League had somehow tricked American colleges into becoming the de facto minor league for the NFL. The schools bought talented athletes with scholarship money, which translated into exciting football teams, which translated into increased alumni donations and, better yet, televised football games and the millions of dollars associated with that.
I used to look forward to the Fall months because it meant the start of football season. I watched the games but I ignored the enthusiastic female cheerleaders because I knew they were there just for the television cameras. Besides, they made less money than the vendors hawking popcorn. It was all about the players and their multi-million dollar salaries.
Why? I wondered. These men have not cured cancer, or devised a way to bring safe drinking water to the world. They have not negotiated lasting peace treaties among warring nations. No, they can run deftly or catch a football and, as difficult as that may be, those skills should not be worth much more than what those cheerleaders are earning. Except that they are, at least to the people writing the checks, because it is all about the money.
Then I read an article in The Atlantic Monthly about how the NFL fleeces taxpayers. It turns out that the teams are tax-exempt. They, who amass unfathomable profits, are listed as non-profit organizations under the US tax code. No wonder they can charge hundreds of dollars for a ticket to a single game. No wonder they can pay their players obscene amounts of money. They bribe cities to build new stadiums for them. They threaten to leave town if they don’t get their way. The late and much-hated Art Modell did, in fact, have a little hissy fit with the city and surreptitiously move the beloved Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, where they became, ironically, the Baltimore Ravens.
Which brings us to the Baltimore Ravens–and Ray Rice and Roger Goodell.
I have watched the videos of the player knocking his wife unconscious in the elevator. More alarmingly, I have watch the women attending the last Raven’s game wearing the Ray Rice jerseys and saying that the problem was Mrs. Rices’ because, after all, she spit on her husband so he was entitled to knock her unconscious and drag her part way from the elevator. Hey, it’s the woman’s fault. Isn’t it always the woman’s fault?
No, it isn’t.
The most appalling scene in last week’s NFL games, was the troubling number of women who chose to wear their Ray Rice jerseys to the Raven’s game. In interviews, they explained that they supported Ray Rice and that his now-wife was at fault for the altercation. Most alarmingly, she expressed her apology for her role in the event. They were apparently drunk. She spit; he hit. So to these female fans, she is at fault.
Shame on you and shame on the PR machine that allows you to think this way.
There is more, much more that I could say. I will say this:
Shame on you NFL. I am done with you and your anti-female message. More importantly, shame on you for letting the colleges crank these football players through the system. Apparently, no one owns the responsibility for training them in what counts as a moral code. It is not alright for a man to hit a woman. It is not alright for a man to knock his wife unconscious or to hit his children with a switch. It is not right and I hold you, NFL responsible. You sign this raw talent and leave it raw.
Your entire business model is an insult to women and to these young men who aspire to be NFL players. I’m ashamed it’s taken me so long to get to this point but I am done with you. I won’t be watching another professional football game. I won’t be checking out the standings.
For you, it is all about the money. Let’s state the obvious: You have no use for women. And this woman, from this point forward, will have nothing more to do with you.