The Decline of NFL: Why it’s Happening, and Why We Should Care

Sam Lance, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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It’s 2013. Your typical American family wakes up on a beautiful Sunday morning. After a long weekend the family gathers in the living room and turns on the TV to the football game.

And why not? The NFL is a sturdy organization filled with many competitive teams and entertaining games and watching a couple games is perfect for a relaxing stay-at-home day.

Fast forward to the present. That same family may wake up on Sunday morning and decide to go on a walk or even to church instead.

While the NFL has been the top sports organization in the United States earning more than $9 billion a year, it is on the decline.

Regular season TV ratings were down 9 percent this year, according to Sports Illustrated. But what factors are contributing to this decline?

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CTE

Let’s face it. The NFL has a huge problem on its hands: concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

According to PBS 87 out of 91 deceased NFL players have tested positive for CTE injuries, and the concussion protocol may be well drawn out, but it is rarely followed by NFL teams.

In the second week after the new concussion protocol Cam Newton received a big hit and stumbled to the sideline. The NFL’s new policy states “players who stumble or fall when trying to stand will require a concussion evaluation in the locker room.”

But Newton did not go to the locker room. He was cleared to play in a matter of minutes.

And the issue was shown on the playoff stage. In the Miami Dolphins first round game versus the Pittsburg Steelers, the concussion protocol was not carried out on Dolphin quarterback Matt Moore.

The training staff let Moore re-enter the game after just one play while it was clear he was not functioning. Events like this show that the NFL can never fully protect players from grueling head injuries.

And Dr. Anne McKee, chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare system, thinks that CTE may actually be present in current players.

“People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” McKee said to PBS. “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”

Furthermore, Fortune reported that out of the 111 brains donated to Boston University from former NFL players, 110 of them had evidence of CTE.

Many EHS students, like McKee, believe that CTE and concussions can be a tricky and dangerous issue.

“I think (CTE) is a huge problem, but it’s definitely a hard one to solve,” senior David Grant, a long time football fan said. “The NFL plays so fast that it’s hard for players to control themselves… it’s a naturally brutal sport.”

Yet, senior Caleb Blakemore doesn’t think that CTE will remain a problem for long.

“Concussion protocol has come a long way,” he said. “I think as we learn more about the possible injuries, helmets will be improved and there could possibly even be rule changes.”

Either way, CTE is a serious problem in the NFL and one that needs to be solved.

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Lack of Competition

This past year the NFL was just plain boring. There were few good teams and a bunch of mediocre or really, really bad teams.

The only three organizations who had a reasonable chance at the title were the Eagles and Steelers—and of course those pesky Patriots.

“Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck cheated their way to get there,” said junior Patrick Driscoll. “I respect the winning culture up in Boston; even if that means all other AFC teams don’t stand a chance to reach the Super Bowl.”

There were also several teams that were almost a guaranteed win on the schedule. The Browns went 0-16, and the Broncos, Colts, Jets and Texans were all very weak teams with a combined 18 wins.

“(The competition) is a problem,” junior Zac Crutchfield said. “Hopefully the draft system will eventually make everything work out fine.”

The draft may balance out teams in the future but the issue is still relevant today.

Most teams competing in games on Sunday mornings weren’t that interesting to watch and lacked overall talent, making the games boring to watch and causing the ratings to go down.

“This year’s competition was definitely lower than usual,” Driscoll said. “Ratings have been going down, and it’s for a reason.

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Player Anthem Protests

Another issue for the NFL is the player protests of the national anthem that was initiated by former San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The protests have been executed in a number of ways, from single players kneeling and teams uniting and locking arms, to even staying in the locker room for the anthem.

According to J.D. Power, the No. 1 reason NFL fans are tuning out is because of the protests to the national anthem.

These protests loomed large last year and more players joined the movement—ever to the dismay of President Donald Trump.

Trump has shown his disgust with the anthem protests on Twitter. According to Business Insider, Trump sent out over 37 tweets about the anthem protests, including ones saying that owners should fire the players who don’t stand.

This Twitter outburst sparked even more protests. Many teams stayed in the locker room or kneeled as an entire team, and this put an even more sour taste in our president’s mouth.

But it’s not just our president who finds the protests to be uncalled for.

“I dislike (the protests) because it disrespects the flag and what it stands for and the people who have fought to protect it,” said senior Collin Elvers.

However, Blakemore doesn’t seem to be bothered enough by the anthem kneelers and continues to watch anyways, unlike many Americans.

“I don’t like how they protest the anthem,” he said. “I still enjoy the game though and will continue watching.”

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With all these issues looming the question has to come up. Will the NFL ultimately come to an end?

After statistics of declined TV ratings were released, every news source jumped on the idea. Samuel Chi of the Detroit News even blamed Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“Goodell committed the cardinal sin of any business enterprise. By doing nothing to deter Kaepernick and his fellow travelers, Goodell and NFL ticked off their customers,” he said.

Additionally, the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass said that the death of the NFL is inevitable because of the middle class abandoning the game, and Driscoll concurs.

“Depending on factors such as safety concerns, lack of public interest and the popularity of other sports, perhaps the NFL could one day disband.”

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