Photo: BEImages/Jim Smeal.
I will readily admit that the biggest role the NFL plays in my life is courtesy of fantasy football sitcom The League. The Super Bowl is only game I watch every year, and even then it's mostly for the pricey commercials and opulent halftime show. During a regular, run-of-the-mill football season, I hear about various games from friends, but league news rarely makes it onto my RSS or Twitter feeds. That could not be less of the case this year.
In a season when it seemed like the NFL was going to take a giant step forward by drafting Michael Sam, the first openly gay player, it's now taken many more than two steps back. Unfortunately, Sam was cut from the St. Louis Rams, but that's not the reason the NFL is taking heat.
Yes, the NFL is making headlines this season. It's the type of news that transcends sports and enters into the general public's awareness. As a non-football fan, I've never read so much about the sport. I've also never been so disappointed with players and league officials.
ESPN anchor Hannah Storm shares that sentiment. She's the mother of three young football fans, and she, too, had to kick off the NFL season with a discussion about the league's actions involving Ray Rice. Storm delivered an impassioned speech about the situation when she closed a recent episode of SportsCenter.
"On Monday morning I was genuinely excited to come to work and break down what I thought was a fascinating first weekend in the NFL," Storm says. "Instead I kicked off ESPN’s coverage of the horrific Ray Rice elevator video. Meanwhile, one of my daughters has her first fantasy football team this season, but...I spent this week answering seemingly impossible questions about the league’s biggest stars. ‘Mom, why did he do that? Why isn’t he in jail? Why didn’t he get fired? Why don't they even have control of their own players?'"
"What does all of this mean for the future?" Storm continues. "Are we supposed to compartmentalize everything that's happening? Are we supposed to separate a violent game on the field from violent acts off the field? And, what kind of message does that send?"
Storm is asking some good questions here, and I hope the NFL is prepared to answer them. Not only do fans deserve to know what the league stands for, the league itself needs to recognize the message they're sending to millions of of people. (USA Today)