Super Bowl LIII a reminder of football’s failings

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On Super Bowl Sunday, it’s hard to celebrate a sporting spectacle hosted by a league that perpetuates violence and discrimination.

Football’s team mentality extends to its fans. Lovers of the sport value its strategy and excitement—not to mention its traditions. But those mainstays lose their power on the biggest football event of the year when you consider the NFL’s impact on the people supporting it.

The NFL’s historically failed to react to its players who’ve committed domestic and sexual violence. It’s left others with permanent trauma from concussions without addressing their safety. Its racist treatment of former player Colin Kaepernick led to celebrities—Ava DuVernay, Common, Lena Waithe, among others—publicly boycotting Sunday’s game.

Despite its regular scandals over the years, the NFL hasn’t made an active effort to combat its demons. That being said, it’s hard to wave goodbye to a sport that brings joy to so many. For its fans, football is a source of relaxation—until it creates more problems than it allows them to forget.

Given the systemic concerns facing the NFL, a Globe and Mail opinion piece recently questioned whether it’s possible to like football and still remain a good person.

While the author concludes you can’t, a person’s character shouldn’t be judged for loving a sport when the sport itself is benign.

In the NFL, a select group of policy-makers, including Commissioner Roger Goodell and 32 team owners, land on decisions for the enture league. It’s important to separate the game from its owners when enjoying the sport.

However, the NFL’s stance on social issues still has a ripple effect, and it’s important to remember that. Its vast reputation and reach carry influence and weight. The root problems within the league extend beyond Goodell and team owners, but those who dictate the league’s direction perpetuate its problems without necessarily addressing them.

Pro football brings people together—but it’s also dangerous. The NFL’s refusal to acknowledge players’ domestic violence is concerning. Furthermore, while the NFL’s recently made efforts to improve its concussion protocol, players remain at serious risk of brain injuries every time they step on the field.

If fans want to enjoy football without guilt, they need to be critical of the league hosting the sport they love. If they’re not mad, they’re not listening closely enough.

We need socially-aware and motivated people to love football and advocate for better standards within the NFL. When good people love something, they believe in it and push it to be better. Football fans need to use their commitment to the game to demand better standards and actions from the NFL.

—Journal Editorial Board

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