NFL: “No Faith League”

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I will never forget the football stories that my parents and grandparents told me as a kid. I would sit enraptured as they talked about the toughness of Jim McMahon, the determination of Walter Peyton, and the grit of Mike Singletary. It wasn’t necessarily their actions on the field but the character of players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady that I admired and respected growing up as an athlete myself. Sports are meant to provide us with entertainment but sometimes, more meaningfully, they provide us with role models and people to look up to.

Turn your TV to SportsCenter today and chances are you won’t find talk of toughness, grit, or determination. You probably will not see an athlete that you want your children one day to emulate or follow. It’s a sad truth that the NFL image is facing serious criticism over both the conduct of their players and the handling of the situations that arise from that conduct. Nothing has been more prominent recently than the issue of domestic violence.

Chances are you have heard about the Ray Rice situation that has been playing out across all forms of media. Ray Rice was arrested after assaulting his fiancée in an Atlantic City casino in late February. The media blitz began when TMZ released a video-tape showing Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator. Rice was suspended for two-games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who immediately came under criticism due to the short length of the suspension.

The media onslaught would have an effect, and on August 28th Goodell announced new stiffer penalties for league employees who commit domestic violence or other violent conduct. Under the new guidelines a first time offender would be subject to a six-game suspension and a repeat offender would face a life-time ban. The NFL thought that trying to clean up their image in hindsight would put this situation behind them, but on September 8th TMZ released another video this time showing the actual in-elevator footage.

The graphic video shows Rice punching his fiancée in the face and knocking her unconscious. After the video was released to the public the Baltimore Ravens cut Ray Rice from their team and Goodell announced that Rice would be suspended “indefinitely”. If TMZ had never released that second video Ray Rice would have played in 14 games this season, made substantial amounts of money from his salary and other lucrative endorsements, and that would have been just fine with the commissioner and the Ravens.

What happened to those days of grit, toughness, and determination? What happened to NFL players realizing that they are living their dream (and getting rich in the process), what happened to the integrity and respect of the National Football League? Just because you have endorsements and outrageous salaries and get to legally hit people on Sundays doesn’t mean you have the right to assault a woman or child and get away with it.

The truly sad part is during Week 1 of the NFL season at least two other players who have been charged with domestic violence were on the field and getting paid. Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers was arrested and convicted of assaulting his pregnant fiancée, but he wasn’t in jail or suspended Sunday. He was in the game, getting paid north of $700,000. What message does that send from the organizations that employ these players and the NFL for allowing that to happen? It shows that they endorse this murderous epidemic of domestic violence that is tarnishing the image of the National Football League, plain and simple.

The domestic violence problem is only one of many issues the NFL is currently facing that have created lack of faith in the governing body. Couple the inexcusable acts of violence towards women and children and the incredibly ludicrous “substance abuse policies” that, for example, have sidelined Browns wide-receiver Josh Gordon for an ENTIRE SEASON, and you see why fans are losing faith in the sport they love. Did Josh Gordon knock out his wife in an elevator or abuse his child? No, he smoked marijuana.

The day that Ray Rice was arrested and convicted by a court of law for domestic assault, whether through pre-trial intervention or jail, was the last day that he should have been employed by the NFL. The fact that it took actual surveillance footage of him knocking out his wife before action was taken is deplorable at best. Goodell even went as far as saying that before the tape came out, “the evidence was ambiguous.” How can you describe a man dragging an unconscious woman out of an elevator by her feet as ambiguous?

This situation should have never come to this point and there’s no going back now, change is needed. The days of Roger Goodell being judge and jury need to come to an end. If you look at his track record of punishment for personal conduct offenses all you will find are miscarriages of justice and rampant inconsistencies.

Look at the other popular American sports and you won’t find this rampant epidemic of violence and sickening crime. People try and say that it is because football is a “violent game.” I wonder if those individuals have ever seen the NHL. Hockey is one of the most physical, violent, games that we play and you don’t see their players displaying the poor personal conduct that is rampant in the NFL.

I don’t want my football conversations with my kids someday to be about Ray Rice, or domestic violence, or substance abuse. I want to be able to talk about players following their dreams, persevering through adversity, and setting an example and being role-models.

I want to turn on SportsCenter and see sports news, not news about athletes being suspended, arrested, or charged with violent crimes. It’s time to bring the tent down on this circus and get the NFL back to the cornerstone of American sports culture that it once was.

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