Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Pop Culture, Race & Politics

The NFL Is F*cking Evil (…And We Don’t Give A Damn)

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It was Sunday. We (my fiancee and I) were at my dad’s house, watching the Heat/Bulls game. It was halftime, so I started channel surfing. We landed on the NFL combine.

Her: “What’s this?”

Me: “The closest thing you’ll ever see to a televised slave auction.”

Her: “Ha. Seriously, what is this?”

Me: “It’s the NFL combine. Where all the college players hoping to get drafted work out and get measured in front of NFL teams.”

Her: “Ok.”

***30 seconds later***

Her: “What do they measure?”

Me: “Basically everything from speed to hand size.”

Her: “Hand size?”

Me: “Yeah.”

***30 seconds later***

Her: “Yeah, this is super slave auction-ey. Feels like I’m watching 12 Years a Slave.”

Me: “We haven’t even seen that yet.”

Her: “After seeing this, I don’t think we need to.”

For the next five minutes or so, we made increasingly silly joke after increasingly silly joke comparing the combine to a slave auction. At the height of the silliness, we both adopted “overseer” accents (which probably actually sounded Jamaican) when mimicking the commentators’ vocal inflections whenever they’d mention a player’s “loose hips” or “wide wingspan” or “thigh width” or “watermelon picking nose.” But beneath the silliness was the realization that we actually weren’t that off.

The nature of football dictates and demands that a premium is placed on prospects proving themselves by performing tasks — vertical leaps, bench presses, etc — more based on physicality and athleticism than actual skill. This is unique to that sport. A great 40 yard dash time and high vertical leap alone won’t get you drafted in the NBA, the NHL, or Major League Baseball. In the NFL, though, it could make you a millionaire.

And, while the slave auction comparison was obviously hyperbolic (to my knowledge, no slaves were signing multi-million dollar contracts), when watching this group of very young and half-naked (mostly) Black men perform these tasks while being picked, prodded, and assessed by a group of much older, fully dressed, and (mostly) White men — men with the power to decide exactly where these young men are going to be employed — it’s a natural connection.

But, we kept watching.

Yesterday, I published a piece by Maya Francis that asked us to rethink Bill Cosby’s legacy in light of the multiple sexual assault allegations against him. A couple months earlier, I wrote something similar in content but much more scathing in tone about R. Kelly. In it, I made no qualms about calling current fans of the R-uh idiots.

These pieces are mere drops in the accountability/outrage ocean we now all seem to swim in. From Chris Brown to republicans to Woody Allen to Gabrielle Union to Chick-Fil-a to Robin Thicke to Papa Johns to Miley Cyrus to Kanye West to the state of Florida, recent popular American culture is filled with examples of a large number of people deciding that a popular entity’s behavior is too troublesome to continue to purchase and/or patronize their product(s).

But when it comes to the NFL, an organization whose negative headlines over just the last six months read like stories from an off-brand Law & Order franchise (“Next on Law & Order: Tampa Greyhound Station: Handsome NFL heartthrob by day. Multi-state serial rapist by night.“), this outrage seems to wane. And by “wane” I mean “not fucking exist.”

Well, maybe we say it does. Maybe we say that all the issues plaguing the league — domestic violence, murder, rape, racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, steroids, teams named after racial slurs, bounties, permanent brain injuries, lawsuits from people with permanent brain injuries who contend the league lied to them, evidence the league is attempting to silence the lawsuits — really bother us. Maybe we say we’re turned off by the post-racial racist audaciousness of the league considering a rule prohibiting Black players from saying “nigga“, and maybe we realize it’s a smokescreen to distract us from stuff like star running backs knocking out their fiancees in casinos and dragging them out of elevators. Maybe we’re bothered by news that a multi-billion dollar industry that makes a big production every year to show how committed they are to breast cancer research only gives 8% of the proceeds from the campaign to actual research. Maybe we’re bothered by how it ties itself to patriotism and militaristicness, and maybe we see the irony in it branding itself as “America’s Game.” Maybe we care that it’s the most violent and physically demanding of the four major American team sports, but the only one not to offer its workforce fully guaranteed contracts. Maybe we care that the cost of a family actually attending a game is more than their mortgage.

But, we keep watching. In record numbers. So it doesn’t really matter what we say, does it? This isn’t just us putting our heads in the sand. It’s us putting our heads in the sand, and demanding deeper, hotter, and heavier sand.

After turning the Heat/Bulls game back on, I sporadically turned back to the combine during commercial breaks. She wasn’t pleased.

Her: “This slave shit…again. Why?

Me: “The Steelers need a big receiver. I need to watch.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • Secret Sauce

    bine to the viewer is more like some form of soft core p*** Who tunes in to see muscle-bound men in spandex workout? Yet, we lament cats wearing skinny jeans. But, you’re right about how the NFL, and football in general, seems to be bulletproof in terms of taking a hit to its rep. There was a time when folks said out loud they wouldn’t watch the NBA because dudes were wearing cornrows and had tattoos. However, some of those same people didn’t have a problem cheering on the Pittsburgh QB who was accused of sexual assault…twice

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      I think Ben has been shield by the black and gold, I can’t see him on any other team and getting Teflon treatment

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        Word. The Steelers are deep in their town on a level that can only be matched by the Packers. They LOVE the Steelers!

    • Sahel

      Winning makes everything better

    • pls

      so glad you brought this up. i side eye n*ggas that say “no h0m0″ after every sentence but have no problem staring at men in tights running around. i don’t think it’ll ever go away since football is very much a part of American culture (Thanksgiving, Sundays, little boys grow up on the sport). It’s also seen as the ultimate guy “thing” yet it’s laced with h0m0eroticism.

      how weird *english accent*

  • ratchet d-Ibaka

    My heart seriously goes out to Carmelo! What in the fuck was JR doing, throwing the ball, like so?? Urrrrgh!

    • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

      JR Smith is a motherf*cking idiot! Then again, that HS All-American Dunk Contest was the first time. Dude got beat by Candace Parker because he was too busy goofing off and missing dunks. Idiot…

      • Epsilonicus

        Do you think Carmelo is leaving the Knicks?

        • Val

          I think you need to ask Lala. Lol

      • ratchet d-Ibaka

        The Knicks were sooooooooooo close to winning, but nooooooo this mother effer just couldn’t let them be great. Chandler actually surprised me.

  • Val

    Well when you put it like that…..

    Seriously, great post, Champ. It’s one that hits close to home. As I am both a NFL fan and someone who isn’t shy about withdrawing my support from entities that prove themselves to be counter to my core beliefs. So, let me just admit that when it comes to the NFL I am a total hypocrite.

    I agree with all the criticisms in your post and yet I am willing to ignore them for the simple pleasure of watching a football game or two every Sunday (and now Thursday nights) every Fall and Winter. No cable required!

    I really have no excuse. Other than at a certain point my sh*t list seems to get too full and I need to make allowances. I made allowances for AK dating a married man. My excuse to myself was I just had too much time invested in being a fan to walk away.

    And I guess that’s how I explain to myself why I’m still an NFL fan knowing what I know about it. I’ve seen the sausage being made and I’m still going to eat it. I just have too much invested at this point, I suppose.

    But really, like I said, in this instance, I’m a total hypocrite.

    • Sahel

      You had to toss in A.K, ey

      • Val

        *fails to see the connection between AK and that woman*

        • The Champ

          they both light. and american.

          • Val

            Isn’t Paula Canadian?

            • The Champ

              Maybe. She’s still American, though. North…American

              • Val

                Lol. No.

          • Sahel

            Champ,you win a goat and six chickens for the wedding.

    • Tentpole

      “I’m a total hypocrite.” No, you are just a good woman with vices.

      • Val

        Thanks, Tent.

    • keisha brown

      i have to 100% co-sign.

      i too have no trouble withdrawing my support when something goes against my morals/values and ya know.. LAWS – but it is becoming increasingly hard to stay in love with this sport.

      i’m conflicted. am also a hypocrite and at odds with how to resolve it.

      • Val

        Yeah, it is getting more difficult. But, I use college football as a foil to make myself feel better. At least NFL players are getting paid.

  • aico

    There is so much truth in this piece. It’s a shame.
    I’m going to join you on Team Hypocrisy because I love the NFL yet rant about all the ills you mention that just so happen to be present in the league. Great read.

  • blackphilo

    Well done. The NFL combine/auction theme reminds me of another dynamic: the hostility some folks have to (very disproportionately Black) major college football and basketball players getting paid or leaving college “early” for a professional career. (The NBA’s new commissioner is threatening to require two years out of high school, rather than the already arbitrary one year.) This country’s righteous addiction to free or bargain Black labor continues to be no joke.

    • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

      Personally, I think the NBA should do like baseball does: either come straight out or chill for at least 3 years. That way, you can choose your paper or to develop your game. Plus I think it would force the D-League to become a better minor league and develop their own players.

      • Epsilonicus

        Baseball definitely has done a better job of creating a solid minor league.

        • Val

          There’s no minor league on the planet better than college football.

        • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

          They’ve also had over a century to do so. MLB and the NFL would have to catch up really quickly to have good minor leagues.

          • Epsilonicus

            I think football struggles partially due to the nature of the physicality of the sport.

      • The Champ

        “Personally, I think the NBA should do like baseball does: either come straight out or chill for at least 3 years. ”

        i agree.

      • blackphilo

        This would be a fairer approach. But I’m still not sure what the legitimate basis is for not allowing persons over 18 to earn a professional living whenever there would be demand for their sports services (and I’m hardly a libertarian). I understand the NCAA being able to set its own eligibility rules. I don’t understand what’s reasonable about collusion with professional leagues that allows the NCAA and the leagues to control when “student-athletes” can leave school to pursue a pro sports career–a convenient kind of anti-market paternalism that works out overwhelmingly to the economic benefit of the NCAA’s member schools and the major professional leagues. College students can leave school to act, join a tech startup, enlist in the military–but need to be restrained from playing a major professional sport until “due” time?

        Actually, let me revise that: oddly enough, such paternalism isn’t deemed necessary for college hockey players drafted by the NHL. The prospective “student-athletes” needn’t “declare” for the NHL draft and lose their college eligibility. They can be drafted automatically, play in college, and leave “early” any time; they retain their college eligibility as long as they don’t accept professional compensation. I guess we could wonder what the principled difference is supposed to be re the NFL, NBA, and even MLB.

  • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

    We need OL, WR, TE in that order, dassit. I like the fact that the franchise has been good to Smitty but he’s on his way out :-( I’m going to cry when he retires. I love the combine though. It’s like the Victoria Secret fashion show for me. Oh shidddd he ran that 40 in under 4.5?! OH MY GODDDD did you see that vertical?! HIS WINGSPAN IS WUTTTTTT?! Dat A$$$$$$$$$$$$!!!!!

    Combine = me rubbing a few out to DB’s, DL’s, OL’s, WR’s, any and all positions ;-)

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      Creep don’t sleep

    • http://vagabondaesthetics.tumblr.com/ Ricky

      back in my simping days I was convinced it was a wise investment to max out my a credit card on la perla lingerie for a woman I wasn’t even with in that capacity. young Malik was awesome and dumb.

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        WTF?! Damn…I never simped on that level. *smh* Hey, even in HS, I refused to give my girlfriend at the time a Boys II Men CD she wanted because I didn’t want to simp like that. Looking back, my game was cold even then.

        Perhaps I hate women more than I think. Hmmm…

        • http://vagabondaesthetics.tumblr.com/ Ricky

          I’m a terrible barometer to use though Todd.

          • Epsilonicus

            Todd is a terrible barometer to use also lol

    • keisha brown

      BWAHAHAHA
      *high fives for that last phrase*

      • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

        *high five*

    • NomadaNare
  • Andrea

    I didn’t grow up watching football. And I never acquired the taste for it. I recently watched the PBS Frontline special “League of Denial”. That was really terrific if you haven’t seen it.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/league-of-denial/
    I was blown away by the story of the Black man who discovered CTE. I don’t understand how mothers continue to encourage their sons to play this sport.

    • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

      Easy, it’s viewed as a vehicle to escape poverty a few years down the line. Also, many parents have not been properly educated on the health risks associated with concussions. Some know the risks and pray for the best.

      • Andrea

        Sad. I hope one day they shut it down. Or at the very least the NFL is forced to do those ads that the tobacco companies do. Truth.com

        • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

          H3ll no. That’s the same mindset that gets people to ban supersizing and soda machines in schools. What next? Are you going to make girls wear cleavage baring tops in HS on penalty of their parents getting arrested?

          • Andrea

            I disagree. You can drink soda in moderation. I don’t know how you moderately not f up your brain. Specifically for the brains of young children. BTW You actually want soda machines in High schools?

            • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

              Yes, if only for the freedom of choice aspects. As you can guess, I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to freedom of choice. One step always leads to another…

  • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

    The combine is actually the second creepiest day in sports.(A day which one of my sisters enjoys because she’s a creep.) National signing day is the ultimate creep-fest. Grown men fawning over teenaged boys has topped the combine.

    Oakland needs a lot of things…this should be interesting.

    • Sahel

      Is that the day where they give out caps ?? I watched ESPN one time when they were doing that and i was flummoxed. One guy changed his mind about going to Auburn and took off to USC and people had meltdowns

      • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

        Yes, that’s the day. I’ve seen parents freak because their kids didn’t chose to their liking.

        • Sahel

          Do half of those kids make it to el NFL

          • Epsilonicus

            Nope. Not at all. They end up in Canada…

            • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

              Many don’t end up in Canada. The CFL has a quota on import players from the states.

              • Epsilonicus

                I did not know that. Thanks for sharing that.

                Doesn’t that break free trade laws, etc?

                • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

                  I don’t know about our hat’s laws. I think they legislate the playing of Canadian artists on the radio too. You may have to ask, KB for clarity.

                • Austin

                  1. Free trade applies to foreign companies providing goods and services within borders. Doesn’t really apply to migration of foreign workers across borders
                  2. Free trade only applies to govt restrictions – local private companies can refuse to purchase foreign goods and services if they desire

        • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

          Especially parents who are taking under the table wink and nudge deals and now they got some splaining to do

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        I remember when Jabari Parker committed to Duke, twitter went ham, like he’s a 17 year old boy the f ck is wrong with you

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        Yeah, that’s it. It’s a big deal. I am proud of the kids though. Having people beg you to give you a college education for free is a good thing, if you’re smart enough to see it for what it is.

        • Sahel

          But are there not risks. What if you get injured,what happens then. I know college athletes are not paid.Like that kid who broke his leg during a basketball game,what happened to his scholarship

          • LMNOP

            And with football there’s a decent chance of injuries that will impair you for life, like tbi

            • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

              I agree with that. Life does has its risk. And maybe the rednecks will finally see the light that is basketball someday. :) Still, why turn down a shot you might not otherwise have?

          • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

            Scholarships for any college sport in the U.S. is done on a year by year basis. If you are problem child or suck you can be asked to leave the team. Some players get half-scholarships also.

            • Epsilonicus

              There is a college athlete union being created. I think football players at Northwestern have started it.

              • Val

                The NCAA is going to crush that with the quickness.

                • Epsilonicus

                  I think this one may fail but there WILL be one in the next 5 years.

              • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

                They did. I’d love to know how this union is going to be funded. Unions are generally funded by their members but these kids don’t have an income.

                • Epsilonicus

                  My thoughts too. Unless they have some support from some where.

              • TheInvisibleEnigma

                That situation is only applicable to private schools like Northwestern.

                • Epsilonicus

                  Got to start some where.

            • Val

              Or if they find a better player at your position. Or if the coach doesn’t like you. Or basically for any reason.

              • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

                If they find a better player they keep you around in football for depth. if the player and coach have beef I have no problem with the parting of ways. It’s usually for the best for each party.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      Singing day is ridiculous you great high schoolers like stars and then get surprised when they arrive on campus in a maybach, not to mention kids who are repeating the 8th grade because they don’t even want to play high school ball until they fully develop, ninja what?!?

      • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

        And this is why I prefer basketball. The shadiness is kept down a touch by the fact that dudes can go pro after a year and the fact that late bloomers are more commonplace in the game.

        • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

          I doubt the shadieness is kept down any more. Sneaker camps exist for a reason. They can go pro a lot sooner but the things that happen prior to signing is just as bad.

          • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

            As someone who played in the summer basketball scene, I have seen plenty of craziness. I think it is checked by 2 things. One, basketball players have a lot more options to make money. Hence, they aren’t reliant on that under the table money college football guys need. Plus, there is an insurance program for prospects that pays up to $4 million in case of injury. It helps make it a bit easier for college hoops kids, because they know even if they get hurt, they can still have enough money to move on with their life.

            • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young

              Many top -tier football players have the option of insurance in college. Them taking it is another thing all together.

        • TheInvisibleEnigma

          Basketball players in 7th grade are considered NCAA prospects. Forgive me if I’m not buying that the “shadiness is kept down a touch” in college basketball.

          (I realize a few football teams have offered 7th-8th graders, but in USC’s defense, Lane Kiffin is an idiot, and Kentucky is… well, Kentucky.)

        • Epsilonicus

          Throw in that dudes can even go to Europe and play pro right out of high school also. Basketball players have a lot more options.

        • The Champ

          i think both sports have equal amounts of shady. it’s inevitable whenever you introduce millions/billions of potential dollars. The difference, though, is that basketball is less physically taxing on its participants.

    • pls

      your post reminds me of the Russ Parr Morning Show where one of his characters is an old southern yt male coach that talks about his players like he’s h0m0 loool it’s funny every time, but they’ve really been fawning over these black boys’ bodies since slave days. they are obsessed with us!

    • pls

      your post reminds me of the Russ Parr Morning Show where one of his characters is an old southern yt male coach that talks about his players like he’s h0m0 loool it’s funny every time, but they’ve really been fawning over these black boys’ bodies since slave days. they are obsessed with us!

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

    I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt the combine was slave auctiony, I was waiting for Jadaveon to play the fiddle. The NFL have done their best to make every game an event, while every other league needs to make their seasons about 20% shorter, the NFL Sundays and MNF are appointment television (I still think every Thursday night game not on thanksgiving needs to get the entire f ck outta here)

    • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

      Word. Once the Big East blew up the college football world with Thursday Night Football, the NFL wanted a piece. Even though the Big East is dead now, #wehititfirst. Let the college kids live for a night man.

  • Andrea
    • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

      Chomsky needs to get out and smile sometime. Pendants make my skin itch. And this isn’t just about his politics, but his personal style.