The NFL Behind the Curtain


Photo via Pixabay

Fairness and transparency in the NFL have been lost in recent years.

Nicole Guillen, Managing Editor

The day that will forever live in infamy in the hearts of Saints fans: Jan. 20, 2019. The “no-call” by referee Bill Vinovich is marked as one of the worst cases of officiating in recent years. How did this happen? Why are we stuck with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s simple answer that “the officials are human” and praises for their “high integrity”?

It’s an understatement to say that his silence has not gone unnoticed. His silence has caused many to run to online platforms to discuss their disgust in how the NFL has dealt with the issue and even went as far as host several anti-Superbowl parties. NFL sure did feel the sting of New Orleans’ wrath, with a subpar 26.1 in household ratings according to Nielson Media Research.

It’s safe to say that this might be NFL’s worst year in recent years. Goodell’s purposeful deflection of the subject made me wonder if he has anything to hide. Was the no-call a result of a mistake, or was it the result of careful planning mixed with bribery?

With NFL’s long history, it’s no surprise that it has had their fair share of scandals that they can’t control like players turning out to be murderers or bullies. But there have been instances that the NFL can control like Tom Brady’s infamous “Deflate-gate” or the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee that was formed to counter evidence of long-term cognitive dysfunction from repeated concussions in football. When asked about these instances in the year that it was discovered, people were met with the same stillness.

It all started in 1997 when the American Academy of Neurology published a study that concluded that repeated concussions led to various levels of brain trauma. Three years later, it furthered its research of the effects of brain trauma and supplemented it with a survey of head injuries from 1,090 former professional football players. The survey found that “60 percent of players had suffered at least one concussion and 26 percent reported suffering at least three concussions.” Years and years of continuous research on the subject has been generously funded by the NFL.

By 2019, it has generally accepted that there is a link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The NFL has now doubled its pledge for research and switched from donating to external entities to keeping the science in-house. If there was ever a red flag, this is the point where it should be raised.

Why would the NFL make the conscious decision to take control of the studies? Whenever a corporation decides to keep studies in-house, that’s usually an indication that they want to pay close attention to the way the studies are conducted and have the ability to modify whatever they choose. Data from research tends to be considered most genuine and reliable when it has been audited externally.

Despite reports that “of the 111 brains of former NFL players examined, 110 have evidence of CTE,” the NFL continues to push the notion that their studies are inconclusive due to selection bias since the brains were exclusively all donated from the NFL.

There’s clearly a link between CTE and football that the NFL is choosing to ignore and even obstruct. Approximately upwards of $100 million dollars has been dedicated to football helmets in order to engineer a better and safer helmet. The NFL is basically unofficially acknowledging that there is a problem and using this initiative for better helmets to minimize the issue instead of addressing that there is an issue in the first place.

This and other recent events have shined a different light on the widely recognized and admired football organization, a light that seems to be on a slow descent into darkness. The NFL was created for the love of the sport. The sport has changed with new, up-and-coming players added each year, but the corporation behind this change has remained dishearteningly stagnant. If the NFL wants to continue as a staple to American culture, it needs to take responsibility for their mistakes and be more transparent with fans/viewers. No one will trust a corporation that hides its imperfections or does not even attempt to right wrongs. It’s time for the NFL to speak up.