Solo Debate

Say No to the NFL



Sadie: NO

Football is America’s favorite sport, but have you ever thought about the impact it has on the players? Imagine it’s the Super Bowl, your favorite team is playing, and suddenly, one of the players is knocked out cold on the field. Is that moment of excitement worth a lifetime of suffering for that athlete? As we become increasingly aware of the dangers associated with football, we must ask ourselves if the entertainment value is worth the risks it poses to the players.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a brain disease that has been found in a shocking number of football players. It can lead to debilitating symptoms and even death. In a study conducted by JAMA, 110 out of 111 players who donated their brains to scientific research were found to have CTE. Former NFL linebacker Junior Seau’s death by suicide in 2012 was a wake-up call for the football community. Seau’s brain showed “definitive” signs of CTE at the time of his death. Deaths of former NFL players such as Mike Webster, Dave Duerson, and Andre Waters have each been tied to the progressive destruction of CTE.

As fans of football, we must recognize the risks associated with the sport. The game revolves around full-grown men smashing into each other at high speeds and at high volumes throughout a given game or even practice. While no rational fan is cheering for injury, there’s a certain lust for brutal collisions that is ingrained into the fanbase. But the NFL must take responsibility for the risks associated with their sport, and they have a history of resisting huge changes and ignoring the dangers posed to its players.

One issue that is particularly egregious is the league’s retirement plans. According to Statistica, the NFL’s average player lasts for just 3.3 years, and for those guys, the pension is basically minimum wage. This is why 78 percent of players are bankrupt or close to it within two years of retirement. It’s not just about the money, either. These players also need help affording the drugs they need for their injuries, which can often lead to addiction and homelessness.

The league is taking in ten billion dollars a year, and yet they still can’t find it in their hearts to take care of their players, the people who put their bodies on the line to make this money in the first place. We often tend to overlook the owners of our favorite teams, but if we look at the history of NFL owners, we will realize that many of these individuals were “dirtbags,” even by the standards of rich plutocrats.

One such owner is Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins. Ross has tried to portray himself as a different kind of owner, someone who cares about his players and fans. However, his actions tell a different story. Ross supported Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and has continued to back him since then. While Ross may not agree with all of Trump’s policies or rhetoric, he knows that electing Trump is in his class interest. Trump’s tax cuts and deregulation have benefited billionaires like Ross, allowing them to increase their wealth and power.

The litany of unpleasantness emanating from the NFL in recent years should be a wake-up call for fans. Cheating, taxpayer fleecing, bounty hunting, domestic abuse, brain damage, suicide – these are not isolated incidents but a pattern of behavior that reflects the culture of the league.

Let’s not overlook the NFL’s handling of off-the-field issues, which has been inconsistent at best. In cases where a player is accused of a serious crime, such as sexual assault, the NFL has been known to quickly come to their defense. For instance, when Ben Roethlisberger was accused of raping a woman, not once but twice, he settled with his accuser out of court on the first occasion, and the charges were dropped on the second after a dubious investigation. Despite violating the NFL personal conduct policy, he only received a six-game suspension, which he then managed to reduce to four games after making a seemingly insincere promise not to repeat his actions.

On the other hand, the NFL has been excessively harsh in dealing with minor offenses. Aqib Talib, for example, received a four-game suspension for taking Adderall without a prescription or a sly wink from the team doctor. And this is the same guy who only received a one-game suspension for fighting a taxi driver and no punishment for allegedly attempting to shoot his sister’s boyfriend. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor found himself in deep trouble for “receiving illegal benefits,” which could have been his coach buying him a 30-cent pack of gum for all anyone cared, but the NFL still suspended him for five games. Meanwhile, Dez Bryant hit his mother and received no punishment, aside from having to continue playing for the Cowboys.

It’s evident that the moral is clear: The NFL treats serious crimes, particularly those against women, as minor inconveniences to be brushed aside. The punishment for such crimes is often trivial or non-existent, as long as the player continues to perform on the field. Even in the case of Adrian Peterson, having accusations and photos beating his four-year-old son until he bled, there was no serious punishment until sponsors threatened to pull ad dollars. We’re not asking for much, just a little bit of common decency. And if they can’t give us that, then maybe it’s time to start watching a different sport. One that values its players and doesn’t protect the violent offenders who play it.

But hey, ladies in America, don’t sweat it! The NFL’s Crucial Catch program has got you covered with some pink merch to raise money for breast cancer research. Well, at least that’s what they want you to think. Turns out, the NFL likes to keep 90% or more of the funds raised from these sales. Talk about a stiff arm to the cause! The NFL’s modus operandi is to take a “25 percent royalty from the wholesale price (1/2 retail),” which means that they donate a small fraction of the profits from pink merchandise sales. Critics even say it’s more like a Hail Mary with a donation percentage closer to 3%. And get this, the NFL not only sells the merchandise but also handles the distribution, making it hard to believe that the money they pocket goes anywhere but their own end zone. 

But, let me get this straight. Football is a game that’s greedy, violent, and damaging to players’ brains, yet we still can’t stop watching it? We’re like the moth that can’t resist the flame, or a sailor who sees a looming storm on the horizon but chooses to sail directly into it. It’s a dangerous addiction, but we can’t help ourselves.

The NFL may be financially secure, but at what cost? The risks of long-term and irreversible damage to the human body, particularly the brain, will always pose a threat to the game’s future. So let’s be real, the future of football is uncertain. It’s like a game of roulette, where the ball could land on a bright, prosperous future, or the looming possibility of extinction. It’s like a gallon of milk, it may not have an expiration date printed on its label, but that doesn’t mean it won’t go bad eventually.

It’s up to both sides of the issue, the science and medicine on one side, the NFL and its governing body on the other, to determine the future of football. How both sides of the issue approach the future will likely determine whether that eventual date comes sooner rather than later.

And as fans, are we really going to support a league that condones or ignores unethical and illegal behavior? If you had a son, would you want him to play in the NFL? Even former President Barack Obama said, if he had a son, he wouldn’t allow him to play football.  

I know it is a beloved sport to our nation, that is undeniable. But when I was wearing my Bengals t-shirt, cheering for Joe Burrow, and suddenly Damar Hamlin was receiving CPR on the field, I couldn’t help but wonder how many more players will suffer the same fate. How many more lives will be forever changed by the violence incentivizing game that we all love so much? We must face the hard truth that the risks associated with playing this sport are not worth it. As fans, it is our responsibility to hold the NFL accountable for their actions and demand that they prioritize the safety and well-being of their players above all else. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the dangers that players face on the field. It’s time to start asking ourselves, is our love for football worth the cost?