What went wrong with Super Bowl LIII?

The consequence of the NFL’s actions on a lifelong viewer

Entertainment shouldn’t come at the cost of other athletes’ struggles.
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When I was younger, I hated Sundays because they were when football took over my life.

They were always dedicated to my mother’s beloved Chicago Bears. She was the biggest football fan I’ve ever met, who’d scream at the TV each week sporting a full navy-and-orange fit.  By the playoffs, when the Bears had usually run their course for the season, attention shifted in our household to my father’s more quietly supported New England Patriots. 

Any weekend trip to visit my grandparents was always cut short; everything would be crammed into the back of the car by noon so we could whiz down the 401 in time to catch the game for 1 p.m.

At the time, unsurprisingly, I didn’t understand what was  great about 15 second plays and a bunch of men slamming their heads together. But to avoid boredom, I learned the rules of football to mitigate my weekly dose of suffering. 

Now I’ve managed to be a fan of the sport, I’m having a hard time being a fan of its league.

On top of being the lowest scoring—and, to the opinion of many, the most boring—Super Bowl in history, this year’s game had the lowest ratings and viewership since 2005. Even the halftime show, which felt like a hallucination complete with a SpongeBob cameo, fell short of previous years’ shows. 

Outside of an overly strong defensive performance from both teams, the problem with Super Bowl LIII was the result of celebrities publicly boycotting the game. 

Most of the boycotts were the result of the NFL’s poor treatment of Colin Kaepernick, who was released from his contract with the San Francisco 49ers after choosing to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African American citizens. President Donald Trump himself chimed in, painting Kaepernick as a public enemy and saying he should find another country for kneeling to the anthem.

In response, the NFL chose to create a policy expecting players to stand for the anthem—unless they chose to remain off the field. Any protest from players would result in fines.

Since then, the policy has been dropped—but Kaepernick remains a free agent after all 32 NFL teams refuse to sign him. Nike opted to support the former quarterback by making him part of an advertising campaign titled “Dream Crazy,” which caused sales to spike.

When I dreaded football and thought it was boring, it carried no political weight for me. It was just a bunch of people beating each other up to get a ball. It served as a strange form of entertainment.

But there’s nothing entertaining about the NFL failing to protect their players, and that extends beyond politics. 

[T]here’s nothing entertaining about the NFL failing to protect their players, and that extends beyond politics. 

The NFL long tried to silence the science behind the concussion crisis affecting retired football players, and didn’t admit to the long-term effects of concussions until 2009. 

Simultaneously, the inclination to give prescription opioids to help players return from injury has resulted in a league-wide addiction crisis. With over a quarter of retired NFL athletes reporting misuse of painkillers, the league’s Players Association has filed a grievance against the NFL about the misuse of painkiller prescriptions.

NFL players are devoting their life to a league that’s repeatedly shown they can’t be bothered with taking care of its athletes.  Instead of addressing their issues, the NFL seems to be treating players with an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude.  

The NFL owes their players the support they need to thrive; they shouldn’t treat them as pawns in their multi million-dollar industry. Exploiting athletes and disregarding their health proves the NFL has little regard left for anything but profits. 

The NFL owes their players the support they need to thrive; they shouldn’t treat them as pawns in their multi million-dollar industry.

In a smaller community like ours at Queen’s, our athletes deserve to know they’re supported and respected, as coaches and administration strive to show them respect. There’s no reason for this to dissipate as athletes climb the ranks and make it pro.

SB LIII was little more than an entertainment event—a broadcasted spectacle tainted by injustices. Yes, seeing Tom Brady win his sixth Super Bowl was exciting. But that excitement shouldn’t come at the cost of other athletes’ struggles.  

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