This year will be the first time I do not watch the Super Bowl. And while I am extremely aware of it (trust me my neighbors are already making me aware of it and it’s still hours to game time) and that I might be missing information for conversations at the office this week, I’m pretty happy about the decision. I’ve never liked football or enjoyed watching the game. I would watch because it was the thing to do, because my brother/dad/friends wanted to watch it, because I’m in marketing and wanted to see the commercials.
But this year I’ve decided those reasons aren’t good enough. Not even the commercials are enough to tempt me, especially as it’s easy to watch them on YouTube afterward.
So, why? After 20+ years have I finally made these decision?
I don’t want to support the NFL.
Let’s ignore my personal preferences about the actual sport (I think it’s so slow!) and focus on what football and the league represent.
Football is dangerous to its players
As Will Smith’s new movie, Concussion, points out the league has a concussion crisis. Players have died because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy as a result of repetitive brain trauma. Have you even seen a game where there isn’t a questionable moment of someone not getting right back up after a hit? And it’s not just he professional players. According to the CDC, concussions are on the rise in youths, and most studies show that football is a leading cause.
Football is dangerous to women
Built on the idea that aggression is good, it should not be a surprise that its players are often involved in domestic violence cases and other violent incidents involving women. Domestic violence accounts for 48% of arrests for violent crimes amongst NFL players (compared to 21% nationally). But it’s not just that they’re involved in them, it’s how the league responds. In 2014 when Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens, was charged with knocking his fiancée unconscious he was suspended for only two games, whereas the leagues policy for substance abuse is a four-game suspension. As a result of the criticism resulting from that decision, the NFL released a new domestic violence policy. This policy does offer a more heads on approach – evaluations for players involved in any violent incident, and assistance for victims and families. But its stiffer penalties don’t seem to be entirely thought out. Players (and all NFL personnel) are now suspended for six games for their first offense and banned for their second offense. But players can petition for reinstatement after a single year. There are no details on how they can be reinstated.
And it’s not just the violence at home women may experience that makes football dangerous for women. Cheerleaders are notoriously underpaid and over worked. The 2014 lawsuit against the Raiders is a rather perfect example of it.
Football is dangerous for cities
To pay for stadiums, cities spend millions of taxpayer’s money. And while I do love sports and updated stadiums (I’m so excited for the new Warrior’s arena that will be in SF in a few years), I don’t think city councils should be deciding to invest in building them. I do like the new trend of cities loaning the money, with expectations that cities get some money back and not depend on just revenue generated from visitors. However, the NFL relies more heavily on public subsides that any other league. Worse, most of the benefits don’t flow back to the city but to the NFL owners.
Worse, while the players, owners and officials are making millions (the commissioner makes $44 million), the Super Bowl is displacing homeless in SF with very little provided for them. Despite the stadium being 45 miles south of the city, the league set up a pop-up village in downtown, costing SF $4.8 million for the 9-day celebration. The Super Bowl host Committee is covering only $104,000. Yet the NFL’s annual revenue is larger than the city’s entire budget. The city relocated homeless so that tourists would not have to be confronted with the reality. What if we used some of this money to help these individuals instead?
So while I do love Super Bowl commercials, I refuse to be part of the audience that makes companies spend so much to play them during the game. I will not add to lining the NFL’s pocket. And okay, I’m just one person. It’s not going to make a 30 second commercial cost less. But it’s a start. Baby steps.