If The NFL Were Any Other Company, Every Customer Would Have Given Up On It Long Ago.

Image via The Triple Helix Online.

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on SportsGrid.com.)

Let’s play make-believe. A little choose your own adventure story, if you will. Picture in your mind a company whose services or products you’ve been using and enjoying for years, maybe since you were a kid. Maybe your dad even introduced you to this company, as his dad did before. You look forward to passing this loyalty down to your own children. This company is a tradition, a staple of American life, like Band-Aids, or Hershey’s Kisses, or It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas.

Meanwhile, in the last several years, some unsavory information about the company has come out; despite wide profit margins, it doesn’t give its employees very good health benefits, and it doesn’t take very good care of ex-employees. You’re not thrilled about this, but its products are better than ever, and for the most part, it offers them to the public at pretty reasonable prices. You stay loyal.

But in the last two years or so, things have gotten particularly ugly. At least a few of the company’s ex-employees have committed suicide, almost surely on account of life-altering injuries they suffered while working there. The company has promised to make its working conditions safer, and to care more for its retirees, but you know this is basically lip service.

On top of that, in the last few weeks alone, one of the company’s employees has committed a murder-suicide, and another has killed a coworker while driving drunk. This last part becomes even more alarming when you learn that in the past year, over ten employees have been arrested for driving drunk, adding to several arrests stemming from physical and sexual assault, weapons possession and other serious offenses.

Here’s where you get to make a choice: Do you stay loyal to this company, do you help them maintain business as usual, or do you stand up and say: “Wait a second, maybe I shouldn’t be so doggedly loyal to a firm whose employees have this many issues?” Cheerios is a great cereal, but if the scenario I laid out above described General Mills, I think you’d find something else to crunch on in the morning.

Of course, though, that scenario describes the National Football League, not a beloved breakfast food manufacturer. We have allowed the NFL ownership over our fall Sundays, over Thanksgiving – and through the draft, free agency, minicamps and training camp, pretty much the whole rest of the year, too. We even let the fake NFL run our lives. We’ve stayed so loyal, in fact, that monetarily, the league is more successful than ever.

But even as it rakes in money, it’s charging more and more outrageous sums for tickets; the technology exists for us to choose which games we watch on TV, but it still won’t let most of us do that (unless we have DirecTV); it claims it’s making conditions safer for players while it attempts to add games to the schedule; and generally insulting fans’ collective intelligence. When do we say “enough is enough”? When do we stop going to these games? When do we stop tuning in? When do we say “We can’t support a company whose ex-employees regularly suffer from dementia and other brain-degenerative diseases on account of their working conditions?”

If the ex-employees of any other company so routinely fell victim to all sorts of neurological problems, there would be protesters outside that company’s offices every day, demanding accountability. Instead, every Sunday, outside every NFL stadium, hundreds of people clamor to pay ungodly sums to scalpers so they can get in to see the mayhem. How much more do we all need to see before we decide it’s time for a new breakfast?


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