NFL exposes lack of integrity again
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 00:12
Back in early November, after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, the much-heralded New York City Marathon was canceled.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the time that, "We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it. We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event – even one as meaningful as this – to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track."
Saturday morning in Kansas City, Missouri, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher allegedly murdered his girlfriend, drove to Arrowhead Stadium and the Chiefs’ practice facility, then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head feet away from his head coach, Romeo Crennel, and the team’s general manager, Scott Pioli, among other team employees.
According to a statement from the team on Saturday, "After discussions between the league office, Head Coach Romeo Crennel and Chiefs team captains, the Chiefs advised the NFL that it will play tomorrow’s game vs. the Carolina Panthers at its originally scheduled time."
This decision is terribly insensitive, especially considering the precedent respectfully created by Mayor Bloomberg with the canceling of the New York City Marathon – which was, in many accounts, a much more difficult event to call off.
Tens of thousands of runners paid entrance fees and traveled to New York City for the 26.2-mile run, and many of those participants had family members and friends come along with them for the event. Furthermore, sponsors had donated millions of dollars for the marathon, and elite runners were promised appearance fees for competing in the race. Yet, because of what Bloomberg deemed as "critically important" – getting NYC back up and running – he pulled the plug on one of New York City’s biggest events of the year.
All the NFL had to do was delay the game – maybe even just push it back to Monday – to give players, team employees, and families a little time to process and grieve. It would have cost some money for sure, but the feeble Chiefs were already having trouble selling tickets for Sunday’s game vs. the Panthers. TV scheduling could have been accommodated for, and so could necessary staffing for the game by compassionate Kansas City residents who understood the severity of the situation.
Several notable people, including those associated with the Chiefs, weighed in on the fact that the team and NFL went ahead with the scheduled game.
Sports columnist Bill Simmons tweeted, "Chiefs game has to be postponed 1 or 2 days. How is this even a question? Do the right thing, NFL."
Chiefs wide receiver Steve Breaston took to Instagram on Saturday and wrote, "There is no way we should be playing this game tomorrow."
Instead of taking Mayor Bloomberg’s lead and putting people ahead of profit, the NFL chose to proceed. This isn’t something new, but it isn’t something we should accept.
The Chiefs’ head coach will be calling football plays a little more than 24 hours after seeing a player he’s coached and spent time with for a couple of years kill himself right in front of his eyes. Teammates will take the field and make football decisions just one day after one of their friends committed a violent crime and took his own life at their practice facility, within walking distance of the very field they play on. The obvious rebuttal to my frustration is, "What is a one-day delay doing to do?"
Sure, one day isn’t enough time to heal or recuperate from this type of tragedy. It’s probable no one on or affiliated with the team will ever be the same, especially those who witnessed Belcher’s death. However, delaying the game would be, at least, a small sign of solemnity for the events that happened, and it would give players, coaches, and those related to the team some time to rest and process.
Like I said, putting profit ahead of people isn’t something new for the NFL (or most big corporations, really). For years, the NFL has failed to take necessary action against concussions that are permanently damaging players’ brains, and they’ve been downright stingy when it comes to taking care of retired NFL players suffering from health consequences they obtained during their NFL career. The decision to go ahead and play the game as scheduled is just another incident in which health and integrity were sacrificed for profit and convenience.
While to the NFL "the game must go on", we as consumers, fans, and humans should rethink how we let governing institutions negotiate priorities. Playing the Chiefs vs. Panthers in the wake of the terrible tragedy surrounding Jovan Belcher was a mistake.
Hopefully, it never has to happen again.