The NFL has been a staple in American culture since its founding in 1920.
There is nothing more American than sitting down on your couch on a Sunday with a cold beer in your hand to watch your favorite team stick it to its rivals.
Recently, however, football has been under scrutiny.
In the past few years, football has been put under a microscope by the public. Doubts about the sport’s future have been brought up in the wake of issues like the kneeling protests, possible blackballing and the injury risk that players subject themselves to just for our entertainment — not to mention millions of dollars.
You have to take a look at the influence of football before you can even begin to talk about the sport losing its influence.
For decades the NFL has brought in record-breaking views and ratings, with millions of people tuning in every Sunday.
The Super Bowl alone is one of the most-watched sporting events in the United States, and one of the biggest spectacles in the U.S. to ever hit TV. People who may not even be fans of the sport gather for Super Bowl parties for the experience and commercials.
Football has wound itself into American culture so tightly that it has become almost inseparable.
Football is a huge part of my identity. I fell in love with the sport despite its flaws. When I first tuned into an NFL game, I was sucked into the atmosphere and competition of it all.
There’s something about the NFL that makes you feel as though you are a member of a global community.
I even refer to my team, the Kansas City Chiefs, as “us” and “we” in conversation, and no one ever calls me out on it.
My football team has become so much more than a sport — it is part of who I am.
Football has such a strong hold on people’s consciousness that I truly don’t believe we can ever fully break it off of us. People become so buck-wild about the sport that they will do everything they can to support their team. Friends will even fight each other over rivalries.
So when I hear people talking about canceling their season tickets because of controversy, I know there will always be hundreds of other fans who are willing to take their spot.
This isn’t to say the NFL doesn’t need to change its tune and rules to adapt to changing American environment.
If the NFL hopes to continue to grow in the future, changes must be made.
The NFL has a duty to its consumers to be more upfront with its positions on controversies.
The NFL has been slow with responses regarding controversies, the most recent example being the entire Colin Kaepernick debacle. Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against people of color, and now there are claims that he may be being blackballed for it. When issues such as these arise, the NFL cannot prolong their response. It needs to state its position as soon as possible.
Too often the NFL is content with sitting back and hoping that with time, issues will just disappear and the public will eventually forget. Take a look at the Ray Rice video tape incident. The NFL responded to this case of abuse with a simple two-game suspension. It only suspended Rice indefinitely when a second video came out to the public showcasing Rice punching his now wife in the face.
I love the NFL and I love football, but it is not perfect.
Situations like these test your passion for the sport, and unless the NFL begins to address the public with its stance as soon as it can and increases its transparency when it comes to discipline, it may become too much for fans to take.
But it’s not as though the NFL has not adapted to the changing times in the past, at least when it comes to the sport itself. If you were to watch an NFL game from the 1970s, you would see a much different sport than you do when you tune in today. Every single game was much more defense orientated, with extremely low scores being the norm for the game, and offense taking a back seat.
Football has adapted into a much more offensive-orientated sport, like when forward passing was allowed to increase the pace of the game to make the sport more interesting to a fast-paced America.
Even this year, the NFL has changed its rules to protect players from being hit as hard as in previous years, reducing concussions and player injuries. In this way, the NFL is making a conscious effort to change the sport to fit today’s culture.
As long as the NFL continues to be aware of the environment of modern America and continues to adapt to the environment, I truly believe football will not die as a sport.
The sport will continue its hold over American culture and identity. There is nothing holding football back from continuing its dominance over the sports world, except for a lack of willingness to change. I am extremely excited for the future of football and all the changes it may bring.
John Lindenau, ’20, is the deputy sports editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]