I have a news flash for you: The NFL does a lot more good than bad.
Can I tell you the current top brass in the league aren't a bunch of scum bags? No, I can't. Roger Goodell, Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the Ravens cast seem to have — in all likelihood — orchestrated a massive cover up of a damnable, disgusting crime.
Can I tell you that every player in the NFL has been obeying the laws of the United States of America? No, no I definitely can't.
Can I tell you its teams are absent of belligerent owners, racist names, underpaid cheerleaders and the greed of Wall Street? No, I wouldn't dare.
But guess what? Welcome to the United States of America. We incarcerate people like nobody else, we like money, we like drugs and we're still learning how to treat our women.
What I see when I watch people throw stones at the National Football League is bunch of crazies screaming in the mirror. I know because I did it too, and I was wrong.
In the year 2011, 1 in 25 Americans were arrested. That's 3,991 Americans for every 100,000 (what amounted to more than 12.4 million people). On average, over the course of the last four years, the NFL has an arrest rate (for a population of 100,000) of 2,466. No, you are not reading that incorrectly. The NFL is better behaved than our beloved average Joe.
For all the screaming, tweeting, Facebooking and disgust you shared about this league "full of abusers" and "violent criminals," did you ever stop to look at us? Did you ever google "how many people does the NFL employ?"
The answer is around 115,000. That's about the population of Berkeley, California. Or Columbia, Missouri. Or Wilmington, North Carolina. Literally, a small city of employees, some feeding their families and others buying absurdly expensive homes. Seriously though, do you need a job? Forget Indeed.com, try the NFL.
Speaking of employment, there has been a lot of talk about equal pay and employment for men and women recently. While the NFL has dropped the ball on its cheerleaders, don't forget it was the first major sport to have a woman play a prominent role in its coverage. After winning the 1971 Miss America Pageant, Phyllis George joined NFL today and landed on CBS Morning News as a result. Should women be thankful to the NFL? Of course not. Can women like Erin Andrews and Pam Oliver say the NFL helped break down barriers with them? Yes, yes they can.
But the National Football League isn't just about making money and divvying it up to those that worked for it. They're also about giving that money away.
Of course, if you google "NFL charities" you have to dig through pages of the same story being plagiarized over and over again: "Only $3.54 of every $100 the NFL claims to raise for breast cancer research actually goes to breast cancer research." But alas, what is buried in the 7th and 8th paragraphs of those articles are little tidbits like this: "that percentage is actually not inconsistent with what other major corporations donate to select charities through consumer purchases, according to Charity Watch president Daniel Borochoff."
In reality (a noun meaning "real things, facts, or events taken as a whole"), the NFL makes single donations as large as $30 million. They have contributed $368 million to football-related charities, building fields, getting kids outside and promoting exercise. They have given millions to 9/11 charities, the Cooper Institute, sports medical research, and so forth. The NFL players themselves combine for a laundry list of charities that would literally put you to sleep.
Eli Manning alone "raised $2.5 million for the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital and recently donated $1 million to the University of Mississippi’s Ole Miss Opportunity Scholarship fund."
In the same tune, Detroit reporter Lauren Beasley recently recorded all the charitable, selfless things the "lowly" Lions organization had done in just the last few weeks. If you're getting bored already, here some excerpts:
- "...provide scholarship to students of African decent throughout the United States to go to college."
- "The group of Lions players not only spent the morning with third-graders from Marion Law Academy but they also helped to educate them about the importance of healthy snack choices and proper nutrition."
- "...grand opening of “The Project Phoenix Learning Center,” which is a new 21st Century computer lab and learning center at the Detroit Lions Academy."
Doesn't all this good just put you to sleep? Who could go for some celeb nudes and TMZ videos right about now?
While these dollar signs and statistics prove a point, they still do nothing to represent the intangibles. Stats, arrest records, millions of dollars; they pale in comparison to the most obvious thing the NFL does: bring joy and happiness into people's homes (unless you're a Browns fan).
No FBI report will ever be able to tell you what it's like for me to sit down on a comfy couch in the middle of a brisk October afternoon, crack a beer with my dad, stuff myself full of warm food and let go of the week. No public statement could make you understand a fourth quarter touchdown, diving into the arms of your favorite people and rubbing your heads together with joy. It'd be easy for me to explain why a fantasy football league helps my friends keep in touch, or how a simple diversion like football has opened up some of the best conversations I've ever had in my life, but you wouldn't want to hear that, would you? Judging by the 111.5 million people that watched the Super Bowl last year, I'm not the only one whose family and friends gets together for the big game.
Instead you'd rather throw your stones, call your names and beg for your justice. There is no doubt the NFL is a scarred organization today, one that has a lot of explaining to do. There is no doubt that there are bad men who operate inside the lines the same way bad men operate in every society on every continent on this planet.
There is an undoubtedly a stern punishment that needs to be served by a few, and messages that need to be sent to others, but let's be sure that this justice is just.
Over the last year, I’ve had dozens of friends approach me like a tree-hugging hippie would approach the Westboro Baptist Church.
“Isaac…” they’d take a serious tone. “Do you think the Washington R*dskins — err — the Washington FOOTBALL team — should change their name?”
Many of them would get really close to me when they asked this question, as if they were trying to smell the racism on my skin, ready to jump me if I had the audacity to say the R*dskins have the right to keep their name or that it wasn’t offensive.
Of course, I’m not an idiot, and being a die-hard R*dskins fan doesn’t make me oblivious to a name that has roots in hatred, pillaging and genocide (and, in some cases, pride and heritage, but we won’t talk about that here). What being a Washington Football fan does do is give me some perspective on what its like to be called a racist for rooting for a crappy football team since you were in diapers whose name you didn’t know really meant anything until the age of 16.
So with that, and here, I’ll give the answer to all these brilliant, revolutionary, second comings of Martin Luther King Jr. who think because they tweet that the R*dskins should change their name they have somehow distanced themselves from their ancestors who decimated, raped, killed, robbed and essentially quarantined a group of people that never asked us to be here in the first place:
Yes, the R*dskins should change their name. I do not care what their name is as long as they are from Washington D.C. and they show up on Sundays so I can escape the day-to-day grind with a beer and my old man and cheer wildly against the Cowgirls. But, if the Washington Football Team is going to change their name, and I am going to need to go on defending myself against these “Native American racist hunters” for the rest of time, then the Pittsburgh Pirates should change their name, too. And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And the Cleveland INDIANS (YOU KNOW, THAT FRANCHISE THAT STILL THINKS NATIVE AMERICANS AND INDIANS ARE THE SAME). And the Kansas City Chiefs. And the New Orleans Saints. And countless other franchises who have anything from insensitive to downright offensive names for their teams.
Do you know what Pirates do? They prey on weak and unarmed people, raid them in the open water, rape their women and children, steal their valuables, their gasoline, their food, trash the engines of their boats and then leave them at sea to die.
Is that really the kind of thing Pittsburgh wants to glorify? If you think that Native Americans are more interested in the Washington Football Team changing their name than — oh, I don’t know — getting land and money and rights and reparations, how do you think survivors of pirate attacks would feel if they ever walked into PNC Park? We write stories about rape and violence that require “trigger warnings” in the beginning (and rightfully so), but we’ll parade around giant flags with eye-patch-wearing men that are supposed to be representations of some of the coldest criminals in the world. Am I missing something?
Yet, the R*dskin firing squad will run around saying things like, “would you name your team the Washington N*****s?”
No, idiot, I wouldn’t. But would you name your team the Pittsburgh Pedophiles? Because Pirates and Pedophiles have about as much in common as “R*dskin” and “N****r” do in 21st century America, so maybe you should find a new horse to beat on.
Still, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who may as well just be the Tampa Bay Pirates — go unbothered as they gloat around their war ships that have killed countless women and children, firing off cannons that represent nothing but murder and destruction every time they score a touchdown. The Cleveland Indians, whose name perpetuates one of the most offensive and idiotic misunderstandings in the history of the world, are rarely in national headlines. The New Orleans Saints, whose name could just as easily be the New Orleans Maccabees, or the New Orleans Jews, roster players and hire coaches who distribute and receive money to try and end other players’ careers. Saints? Really? Where is the pope? Where are the G-d fearing Christians here to defend the way the most sacred characters of their scripture are being represented on the football field?
Add to all this the context of competitive sports in general, the way fans turn a blind eye to criminal players and corrupt owners and an NCAA that takes advantage of countless teenagers a year, and what do you have? You have a group of people so obsessed, so delusional, that they will do things like publish articles on how the R*dskins should change their name on a website that profits off of circulating news about the players they could be writing about who beat their wives or killed their girlfriends or got arrested for driving 120 miles per hour with a BAC that was twice the legal limit.
So I implore you, R*dskin hating nation, keep up the good fight. Truly, with no sarcasm, I believe you’re doing the right thing. If it were up to me I’d send Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder in a rocket ship to Mars, switch the name to the Washington Warriors, donate millions to Native American communities across the country, lower the price of beer in the stadium to three dollars, sign Alfred Morris to a 15-year contract, and so forth. But, if you are going to write a letter to your senator tonight about how the Washington Football Team should change its name, and then you’re going slide into your Cleveland Indians jersey or go cheer for the good ol’ Buccos, maybe you should throw back a fat glass of clarity and go all in on your fight. Maybe, just maybe, you should have the fortitude of a brick wall instead of a water bottle and really go make a difference.
Lets get the Chiefs to change their name, to ban the offensive headgear worn by fans and mascots. Lets boycott Cleveland Indians games, bless the Saints stadium, stand up against the Pittsburgh Rapists, and drive each and every offensive name out of sports! If we’re going to parade around Native Americans we didn’t seem to give a shit about ten years go just to lambast every R*dskins fan out there, we might as well spread the criticism around a bit more, no?