The NFL: A “Top Down” View

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The NFL has the reputation of being a “good ole” boys league. A league that is all white at the very top, while minority players fill their pockets.

The same league that came into division when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel in protest of this country issue of police brutality.

The same league that only recently began examining the impact of blows to head, which is pointing to the development of CTE. Last month, a set of emails from former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden were made public and they confirm much of the “good ole boys” sentiment. 

In the month since, we’ve had time to think.

Gruden’s emails takes shots at various groups of people. From remarks connected to the Washington Football Team’s name change to language attacking various members of the football community. He used derogatory language to explain his sentiments on current President Joe Biden calling him “a nervous clueless p——y.” He also attacked the league at large for attempting to crack down on issues surrounding head injuries. He appeared to attack NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on a few occasions, most notably for his advocacy for the drafting the openly gay Michael Sam. Some of his other attacks included criticism for NFL safety Eric Reid, who was a huge voice against police brutality. He called for Reid’s job, based on Reid’s stance on social issues. In addition, he talked about Demaurice Smith, NFLPA chief, using racist imagery in the form of verbal slander.

Gruden has stepped down as head coach, stating that he didn’t want to be a “distraction.” While the media storm is justified, there’s certainly an underlying issue here that nobody is speaking on: Gruden’s comments representing the NFL’s sentiment at the top. I mean, the league itself swept the issue of concussion and head injuries under the rug for decades. Also, we’ve heard players, coaches and alumni speak down on protests during the national anthem. So, is that really a surprise here? The shock of seeing the scripts of a leaked email is certainly the only shock here.

Tom Brady is seen on sidelines screaming, and yelling at teammates. This perception has Brady seen merely as a fierce competitor whose desire to win was paramount, which is true. Meanwhile, Odell Beckham displayed this same level of passion, and is “childish” and “immature.” Ben Roethlisberger used to call out his teammates on the radio after losses, to absolutely no consequence. On the subject of Roethlisberger, he has been had issues with sexual harassment. The result, merely received a slap on the wrist. This is the NFL, the same league that had the term “End Racism” painted at the back of the end zone. While also being the same league that does nothing to actually do so, and has antagonized players who protest it.

It’s time we hold the NFL accountable.

Gruden here is the scapegoat. He’s a microcosm of what many of the higher ups in the league believe. Put aside political beliefs, we are talking about an outdated social outlook. Sexism, racism, etc. are all running rampant behind the scenes amongst those who hold power. The issue here is that the highest stakeholders hold these attitudes, so there’s likely little consequence coming to them. So, like America, the NFL will move into the future, still upholding attitudes of the past.

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