Fumbled Away: Why the NFL’s Incompetence proved football is no longer just “play”

It wasn’t the first blow to the throne, it was merely the one that brought down the pedestal the NFL and Roger Goodell used to occupy. The final straw was pulled and revealed the NFL for what they really are: incompetent, inhumane, and liars.

Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell is under fire for allegedly lying about his knowledge of the Ray Rice video.

Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell is under fire for allegedly lying about his knowledge of the Ray Rice video.

Lets recap. Ray Rice, then the Baltimore Raven’s starting running back was arrested after an altercation with his then-fiancee, now-wife Janay at an Atlantic City hotel back on February 15th. Four days later, a video of Rice dragging Janay out of an elevator surfaced, courtesy of TMZ of course. The issue lied dormant for a while as it was sorted out by police. Fast-forward to March 24th, when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti promised that Rice would return to the Ravens. Ouch. On March 27th, Ray Rice was indicted on aggravated assault charges. He married Janay the next day.  May 21st, Rice agrees to go into a pretrial intervention program, a program later revealed that is offered to less than 1% of domestic abuse cases. On July 24th, Rice was suspended for two games by the NFL, prompting far spread outcry throughout the nation.  Fast-forwarding to September 8th, when all hell broke loose.  TMZ, those guys again, acquired a video of Rice punching Janay in a Atlantic City hotel elevator surfaced, a video that was previously believed to only be in the possession of the police.

Ray and Janay Rice

Ray and Janay Rice respond to the scandal.

The NFL and the Ravens acted swiftly, cutting Rice and bumping his two game suspension to an indefinite suspension. Both the Ravens and the NFL claimed they had not seen the video before it was released by TMZ. I don’t buy it. How can I believe the NFL didn’t uncover an incriminating piece of evidence on a case they had to rule on, but TMZ was able to find access to it? I can’t.  The scandal was culminated by an Associated Press release reporting the NFL had been sent the elevator video back in April. It was now publicly recorded that Roger Goodell and the NFL had conspired to sweep Rice’s crime under the rug. The pedestal holding Roger Goodell and the NFL had officially collapsed.

The NFL is currently under fire for a number of other indignities, namely the domestic violence conviction of Carolina Panthers Greg Hardy, the accusation of domestic assault by San Francisco’s Ray McDonald, and most recently the Minnesota Viking’s star running back Adrian Peterson, who was indicted on child injury and negligence charges for whipping his child with a switch. The NFL routinely butchered their punishments of these respective players. Those, in turn, ignited a public outcry and debate on a variety of issues that proves the NFL is no longer a league of “play”.

Adrian Peterson is currently embroiled in a child abuse scandal

Adrian Peterson is currently embroiled in a child abuse scandal

John Huizinga, a cultural theorist, is the author of Homo Ludens, a book that discusses the importance of play element of culture and society. In Homo Ludens, Huizinga offers his definition of play. Sports usually fall under that blanketed definition; that is, until a debacle like the one the NFL has on its hands. Huizinga defines play as, among other things, unproductive, make-believe, and disinterested; it stands outside of ordinary life. But that is not true. The scandal the NFL currently finds itself in has, like many sporting events and incidents before it, caused a cultural revolution throughout society.  Roger Goodell recently stated that the “NFL is a microcosm of society”. A society that is broken and needs fixing. The NFL brought more attention to domestic assault as a widespread societal issue, an issue that, judging by the fans and other reactors, is being addressed at every societal level.

Adrian Peterson’s pending charges too have created if not a society revolution, then a extreme societal debate. It has re-created the debate of corporal punishment as it stands in the 21st century. They’re is an argument on whether it has a place now in society, and the public nature of Peterson’s charges have a means of really stimulating the debate. This proves the NFL’s overarching reach throughout society; it is not just a league for the means of play. For better or for worse, sports are a means of change.


One comment

  1. dverdere · September 30, 2014

    There are many great points and examples given in this, which thoroughly show how incompetent and corrupted the NFL organization really is. I think, however, that this incompetence is not the proof that football is no longer just play according to Huizinga. Players have been locked into long-term contracts for a very long time and this would not fit into the idea that play has an essence of freedom, because a player is locked into a team for a specific amount of time. Also, these contracts are signed in order to get paid, so there is an extrinsic motivation to play, which also does not fit into Huizinga’s definition of play. So, I think you are absolutely right the NFL is feeble and needs to change, but I do not see how this suddenly makes professional football no longer an example of play, when the way the league is run has not changed for many years.


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