The National Football League is one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Starting in 2010, the Super Bowl has averaged over 100-million viewers including last year’s Super Bowl, which drew an audience of 111-million.
The only other program that comes close to it in ratings is the final episode of M*A*S*H, which aired in 1983 and had 105-million viewers.
However, the NFL is in serious danger and it all started when current Commissioner Roger Goodell took office. Goodell took office in September 2006 and has ultimately been a major factor in the current success of the NFL.
He has constantly forced the NFL to evolve, making several rule changes and adjusting several league policies. He has also handed down more suspensions under his tenure than any other NFL Commissioner.
Goodell has changed the NFL forever and it’s not for the better, as many seem to believe. Let’s start with Goodell’s strict new rule changes about concussions and overall player safety.
A lot of fans, myself included, have become irate because any big hit that occurs now draws a flag.
The trend started in 2012 with the suicide of former NFL great Junior Seau. Seau suffered from powerful migraines and eventually took his own life at age 43.
During a study of Seau’s brain by the National Institute of health, officials discovered Seau had a neurodegenerative brain disease, a brain disease linked with several other NFL players’ suicides.
It was not until Seau’s death that attention was brought to the growing problem. It also was not until more than 18,000 former players decided to sue the NFL following Seau’s death that Goodell decided to do anything. The players ended up settling the lawsuit for $765 million.
Under pressure from the media and former players, Goodell decided to adjust a rule he had made in 2011. The striking a defenseless player rule was modified in 2012, including any helmet-to-helmet contact, which would immediately draw a flag and possibly fines and suspensions.
This has caused the NFL product to be ruined. Goodell is the most powerful sports figure in the world of sports. He could have stood firm and come up with a better solution, but decided a quick course of action would be better, but he was wrong and the NFL will suffer for it.
Since the new rule change, NFL players have had to change their way of tackling. Instead of going for the big hit with their upper body and hoping to jar the ball loose, defensive players have started to go for opponents legs.
Since the rule change there have been more knee and ankle injuries in the NFL than ever before. USA Today surveyed over 293 NFL players on 20 different NFL teams and the most common fear was injury to the legs.
Most players agreed that avoiding concussions is a must, but would rather take a concussion than have a career-ending knee or ankle injury.
For example, Robert Griffin III and Rob Gronkowski among others have suffered serious leg injuries forcing them to miss more time than they would have if they would have suffered a concussion instead.
In a interview by USA Today, Cleveland Browns Guard Shawn Lauvao summarized the players concern.
“You saw what happened to Gronkowski,” Lauvao said. “That’s because of a rule change. The way it was before, he would have just got hit in the head. He would have been there for the next play. It’s a Catch-22. I know they’re trying to make it safer, but some rules changes just take away from the game.”
These rule changes suggest that Goodell is seriously concerned with player safety, but he has been behind the push to expand the regular season and the playoffs. His reasoning: more money.
Extra games would generate more revenue for the league and himself. If he truly cared about player safety then why would he even consider extending the length of the regular season from 16 games to 18 games?
This gives more opportunity for players to be injured; more legs being taken out, concussions and ultimately fines. He also refuses to get rid of the dreaded four NFL pre-season games that always end with a prominent player being injured.
Goodell’s tenure has led to the addition of Thursday night games. While this has helped increase the NFL popularity, it has significantly hindered NFL player performance and health. Thursday night games force players to only have three days of rest when they are accustomed to having six.
Goodell has also made plans to expand the league from 32 teams to 34. The new teams’ destinations include Los Angeles and London. Players would then be asked to travel to another country to play an NFL game and who is to say Goodell wouldn’t make them do it on a Thursday night?
Thursday night games also impact the audience. Following a full load of college games on Saturday and then NFL games on Sunday and Monday, is the casual fan ready for football again on Thursday? Of course not. That’s a lot of football even for a fanatic and it dilutes the game.
Look at Major League Baseball. There are baseball games seven days a week and on for most of the day which has been a detriment to the league’s popularity. MLB currently sits third behind the NBA and NFL, only averaging 2.5 million viewers per game.
It’s simple economics, supply and demand. If you saturate the market, the demand will drop. Instead of making people look forward to another NFL game, people will more than likely just switch channels instead of watching another NFL game.
Soon enough Goodell will push so many games down our throats before people cease to care about the NFL anymore. Because of Goodell, the fate of the NFL hangs by the thread of a needle. One little push and it will all come crumbling down.
That one little push may have just happened thanks to Ray Rice.
In February 2014, Ray Rice got involved in an altercation with his then fiancée, now wife, by striking her with his hand in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City.
Rice was indicted in March on third-degree assault charges, but Goodell remained mum during this time. It was not until July 16that Goodell finally met with Rice and his wife and came to the conclusion to hand out a two-game suspension to Ray Rice.
Then, the fall of Goodell began. The media backlash of only handing down a two-game suspension to a domestic violence charge was enormous. Goodell, under pressure once again much like when he was under pressure about concussions, admitted he was wrong and extended Rice’s suspension to six games.
However, on September 8 everything changed. TMZ released the video of Ray Rice striking his wife and the NFL then suspended Rice indefinitely. A few days later, reports came out that a police officer sent the video to an NFL executive back in April, two months before Goodell met with Rice and his wife.
The FBI is currently investigating how the NFL and Roger Goodell took in evidence and came to a decision. This is not what hurts Goodell the most however.
This debacle makes it appear like Goodell and the NFL engaged in a cover-up. Goodell tried to protect Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens and ultimately the NFL.
It has finally come back to haunt him. Women’s rights groups and most media are up in arms. The National Organization of Women has called for his resignation and even famous reporter, Keith Olbermann, has had enough.
“This is enough,” Olbermann said. “If there had been some recognition today, some form of acknowledgement for the women fans of the NFL, that this two-game suspension is a virtual attack on them perhaps these following words would not be necessary. But for the sake of the NFL, and more importantly for the sake of those women and all others, all of us in a country in which this is so much more than a mere sports league, it is necessary Mr. Goodell for you to now resign as its commissioner.”
With Goodell still in office and refusing to resign, the NFL image is in jeopardy and Goodell is to blame. The NFL has always had the protection of the media.
It has always been described as progressive and a growing league by making rule changes to improve the game.
But has Goodell really helped the league or has he pushed it to a breaking point and forced it into a state in which it can no longer repair itself?
This has brought the NFL to a state that the struggling markets of baseball and hockey found themselves in after both once being as popular as the NFL back in the 1980’s and 90’s. It appears that the NFL is heading down that same road.
Goodell is killing the NFL and if America still wants to watch a good product, they will need to hope Goodell does the right thing and resign.