What is Wrong with the NFL?

It’s no secret that pro football is the most popular sport in America; it’s been proven for the past 30 years by surveys conducted by the Harris Poll. With such an active fan base, it’s no surprise that the NFL continues to break TV rating records during their annual Super Bowl’s for the most-watched TV show year after year. Yet, with all that success comes a large and attentive audience, paying constant attention to the good and the bad of the NFL.

In 2011, the NFL was in jeopardy of surrendering the season due to a lockout imposed by the NFL team owners, which prohibited players from team facilities and league operations. Fortunately for the fans, the league was able to form a new bargaining agreement which has been in full effect since the start of the 2011 regular season and has seemed to work just fine. However, in recent years, it seems the publicity surrounding the NFL focuses on the morequestionable parts of their practices.

There seemingly isn’t a day that goes by without hearing breaking news pertaining to NFL players being involved with some sort of legal trouble. The downfall of the NFL’s credibility began in 2013, when rising star Aaron Hernandez was taken into custody and eventually charged with first-degree murder and several other charges. It seems the NFL hasn’t been able to catch its breath since, as the hits kept coming; we’ve seen three of the NFL’s brightest stars lose the respect of NFL fans and put in jeopardy their future with the NFL.

Within the first month of this NFL season, the organization has encountered much criticism regarding their punishments for players violating legal actions. Most recently was Baltimore Ravens star running back, Ray Rice. Ray Rice was a well-known start of the NFL and ran himself, along with the NFL, into a large deal of scrutiny when he was recorded knocking out his fiancé in a elevator. The video of this incident caused a lot of scrutiny of the NFL because when Rice was originally detained by the police, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell only initiated a two game suspension for his charged actions.

Such discipline was questioned because it followed breakout wide receiver from the Cleveland Browns, Josh Gordon, as he received a full season suspension for failing the NFL drug test and breaking policy. This year-long suspension raised questions about the NFL’s values and whether or not the NFL was protecting guilty parties in order to protect their professional image.

The NFL’s issues continued to grow when surveillance video leaked of the disturbing attack and allowed the public to view how shocking the incident was, which led to criticism of Roger Goodell’s generous “discipline” toward Rice. Still today, the drama continues with questions as to when the NFL front office had access to this damaging video, as Goodell insists the discipline was placed on Rice prior to any knowledge of the video. Yet, representatives of law enforcement  have confirmed that they sent the surveillance tape to representatives of the NFL prior to any disciplinary action taking place, which questions whether the commissioner is sentencing appropriate punishment for the severity of the player’s actions.

The NFL has also found themselves in the middle of another not-so-pleasant breaking news regarding an iconic star of the organization. The most recent 2,000 yard rusher since 2009, Adrian Peterson, who came within 8 yards shy of breaking the all–time season rushing leader in the NFL, was taken into custody for child abuse. What was surprising of this story was Peterson’s inclination to take responsibility: he turned himself in when charges were raised, and his attorney has never declined the accusations and rather insists Peterson’s regret for the situation.

As quickly as the NFL saw an increase in fan base for the love of the sport, they are just as quickly in the midst of controversies concerning the images that reflect the NFL. The NFL is filled with players who are in some sort of trouble with the law: Jonathan Dwyer, Le’Veon Bell, LaGarrette Blount, Greg Hardy and Aldon Smith are a few who this year alone have faced discipline for their involvement with the law. The influence of the NFL is unquestionable; the positivity of that influence, however, is debatable. The NFL has many players who don’t exactly intend to be a great definition of a “role model” for athletes of the future. It’s universally understood that the league is conducted as a business; but, perhaps NFL officials should first focus on regulations that take care of the problems off the field in order to impact the fans off the field.