The NFL: a Microcosm of Societal Issues in 2014…by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

Ray Rice, Janay Rice

These past severals days have seen the return of NFL football; this is usually accompanied by the excitement befitting the return of a conquering hero, presidential leader or, dare we say, God himself.

Yet, something is quite different this season. Rather than the focus being the on-field action and results, the attention has been diverted in a very significant way.

During the regular season, Mondays are generally devoted to a rehashing of the weekend’s results. Yesterday was different, very different. There was barely any discussion of Sunday’s games, but rather, the focus was on the disturbing video which depicted Baltimore Ravens star running back, Ray Rice, beating and dragging his fiance off of an elevator. Rice had previously been suspended for two games, when little of the video had supposedly been seen. However, it took TMZ, not the military level security of the NFL, to dig up the nauseating video. Discussion and finger pointing were rampant all day yesterday. Who knew what when? Why doesn’t the NFL have a zero tolerance policy? How did the judicial system so badly get this wrong?

Sadly, there seems to be more focus in the NFL on off field issues than the game itself. The NFL has turned the first openly gay football player, Michael Sam, into a circus act; quietly the NFL’s big thinkers have been urging teams to sign Sam, even just to a practice roster spot, in order to convey leadership and tolerance on gay issues. I would suggest it is merely the NFL’s money machine tapping into another demographic. Rather than just letting Sam succeed or fail on his own talents, the NFL has made a joke of a significant societal issue.


The Indianapolis Colts have one of the great young QB’s in the NFL; a seemingly classy young man with outstanding talent and leadership ability. However, rather than the focus being on Andrew Luck, all the news surrounding the team is focused on their owner Jim Irsay, who was charged with driving under the influence and is facing serious addiction issues. He too has been suspended and fined and will not be a part of the team for the first six games.


We could discuss any number of other issues: Aaron Hernadez’s murder charges, Josh Gordon’s one year suspension for repeated marijuana use…that’s right one year for marijuana use, while Ray Rice got two games for beating his fiance ( huh????), PED suspensions, and so much more.

Is society in 2014 any different than 50 years ago when Joe Namath was a womanizing playboy or Paul Hornung was gambling on the NFL? Not really…we just have a 24 hour insatiable news cycle, with networks like TMZ doing their best National Enquirer and every fan walking around with a cell phone which captures images and video of players being human.

My message to the NFL…if you want your on field product to be the centre of attention, then you must get back to your board rooms and put together policies, punishments and leadership initiatives which address the reality of society today. A two game suspension for beating your fiance and a one year suspension for marijuana use just makes your league look foolish.


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