The NFL deflates its reputation
Like most of you reading this column, I spent my last Sunday afternoon watching the Seattle Seahawks take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.Even though I had no allegiance to either team, I am a die-hard Raiders fan, so I thoroughly enjoy watching the Patriots lose — damn you, tuck rule. While the ending was not in my favor, once again because of a questionable Pete Carroll decision, the game was a massive hit.The Patriots and Seahawks played one of the greatest Super Bowls since the Giants beat the Pats back in 2008. Over 114 million people watched the game, making it the most viewed television show in American history. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady cemented his status as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Pete Carroll’s decision will be questioned for the next eight months, and a certain shark will go down in infamy.The NFL was sitting pretty once again. Roger Goodell should be sitting in his office full of giddiness, right? After all, he is the commissioner of the most popular professional sports league in America. One would figure he has no problems, right?Wrong. While the NFL has been a huge hit on the field, the league has a huge problem when it comes to the off-the-field conduct of its players. On top of this, doctors are breathing down the NFL’s neck when it comes to concussions and brain injuries of its current and former players.After I was finished being dazzled and amazed by the grand spectacle that is the Super Bowl, I ran across a picture on Twitter that really emphasized the NFL’s main problems.In this satirical cartoon, two very worrisome officials, one of them presumably Roger Goodell, are carting off two deflated footballs connected to heart monitors and other medical equipment. In the background, there is one player beating his wife and another sitting on the floor with his helmet off, presumably suffering from a concussion.To me, this encompassed everything that is wrong with the NFL right now. In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, there was so much coverage of whether or not the Patriots had deflated footballs during their 45-7 shellacking of the Indianapolis Colts. There was so much unnecessary media attention that I couldn’t even turn on ESPN.It is what hasn’t been covered, however, or even really discussed by the NFL that is disturbing. This year alone, the NFL has seen two star running backs, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, as well as Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy embroiled in domestic abuse cases. Except for a few games, all three players missed the 2014 season.The NFL has had a long history with off-field issues involving its players.According to a USA Today database, over 780 NFL players have been placed under arrest for various crimes, ranging from domestic abuse to drug possession, since 2000. In the past year, the NFL saw 60 of its players face criminal charges.As a leader, Goodell is supposed to point his league in the right direction. He has done just the opposite, however. Over the summer, Goodell botched the Ray Rice decision, allowed Greg Hardy to play despite being found guilty of domestic abuse, and topped it off by creating a whole set of new domestic abuse rules only to break and bend them as he pleased.What’s even more disturbing about the NFL and Goodell is their handling of concussions and other brain-related injuries to their former and current players. For years, doctors said that playing football was a direct cause of brain trauma, a claim the NFL shot down time and time again.It wasn’t until 2014, almost 50 years after the modern league’s inception, that the NFL agreed one in three players will be affected by brain trauma. This admission came only after a study certified that 76 out of 79 deceased former NFL players, one of whom was former Trojan Junior Seau, suffered from a degenerative brain disease.As shown by the success of the Super Bowl year in and year out, the NFL will undoubtedly not feel any ramifications from its mishandling of player safety and off-the-field issues any time soon.The NFL is at the top of its game right now and shows no signs of slowing down. If the league hopes to maintain its advantage, however, it may want to put more effort into solving bigger problems than deflated footballs.Nick Barbarino is a junior majoring in business administration. His column “Beyond the Arc” runs Fridays.