The National Football League, despite enormous popularity, is facing crises on several fronts. First and foremost to the league is the issue of player safety and making the game safer overall. Just yesterday morning a new study was revealed that said helmets actually do very little to prevent concussions. The research showed they provided as little as 20% reductions in head injuries.
I have my own theories on that study but that’s for another time.
The NFL is also facing problems with consistency in its’ officiating ranks. This is no small issue either. NFL officials last year not only missed many calls but more importantly, they erred when trying to actually correct them! This has created a tremendous backlash from fans that are already tired of seeing their teams play in London and are horrified at the direction the game is going. ‘Flag football’ is most commonly used…
Now the NFL has its’ hands full with a two very hot button social topics and they cannot afford to fumble the fumble on either one of these.
First is the Richie Incognito – Jonathan Martin bullying saga which came to a head on Friday when the Wells’ Report was released to the NFL and to the general public. I have no problem going on record in saying that I believe Incognito is done playing football in the National Football League. Yes, he has many supporters, but teams will not want the drama and media attention that having him on the roster would bring.
Jonathan Martin is in a whole different situation. Roger Goodell and his minions in the league office know they have a potential time bomb on their hands with Martin’s future in their league. Although this bomb doesn’t start ticking until free agency kicks in on March 11th, the real test will be in the summer when teams are looking to fill rosters in anticipation of training camp.
Can the NFL afford to have Jonathan Martin sitting out? Absolutely not! Imagine how it would look if a young man who was bullied and harassed were no longer in the league. It would look bad to the general public regardless if whether Martin can actually play or not.
Take this conversation and spin it forward to this May’s NFL Draft. One of the young men that will be on each and every board in each and every war room will be an openly gay man. Prior to his announcement, Michael Sam was projected to be selected anywhere from the third to seventh round. In the hours after his coming out, his stock dropped by as many as 60 positions on some draft boards.
Now imagine the draft as it enters its second day and here is this celebrated, brave young man who is a pretty darn good football still on the board. Do you really think Goodell wants this PR nightmare?
It could get worse though… What if Sam enters day three, which is the final day of the draft and he still hasn’t been taken by any of the league’s 32 teams. That PR nightmare I mentioned will look like a storm of epic proportions for Goodell. Why you may ask? Because if no one drafts a young man who was believed to be a very draftable player prior to his announcement then it will look very much like the NFL has learned nothing from the Martin case and will continue to look homophobic in the 21st century.
Scoff all you want, but I guarantee you this; Jonathan Martin will at least be in camp with a team and I also believe Michael Sam will be drafted. That’s the power of Roger Goodell and the NFL folks.