It’s that time of year again…a new edition of Electronic Arts’ juggernaut football franchise Madden has been released. In an industry that is literally built upon franchises, Madden football stands apart. It has outlived the involvement of its celebrity endorser John Madden, and entered the popular consciousness like few entertainment franchises ever do. I have been an enthusiastic player and consumer of Madden; I’ve played the latest entry every year. From my days of playing on a small television on my Super Nintendo to 65 inch 4k television and my Xbox One I’ve always been there. But that was before Ray Rice, before Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), and before the police brutality protests of Colin Kaepernick.
I’ve decided that for the aforementioned reasons I’m done with football. Until the NFL chooses to have a domestic abuse policy that makes sense, honestly confronts CTE, and stops blackballing Kaepernick I won’t give them a penny. That means no fantasy football, no NFL merchandise, no going to the bar to watch the game and support the team, and ultimately no Madden as well. The league doesn’t have to listen to me or others like me, but I don’t have to give them my money either.
You don’t have to take my word for it when it comes to concerns regarding the NFL’s administration of its domestic abuse policy, do an internet search. An interested person can find a cornucopia of articles on the inconsistency of how abuse cases are handled. Ray Rice had a two game suspension until the video was released, was then suspended indefinitely, which was then overturned. To the NFL’s credit, they admitted that they didn’t handle the Rice situation correctly and that the standard was going to be a six week ban. But what’s happened since then? A Bleacher Report article from this January reported that “The NFL appears to have enforced its “baseline” six-game suspension against just two of 18 players publicly linked to domestic violence allegations since Goodell announced the new policy,according to a B/R Mag examination”. But are six games really even enough? Tom Brady was suspended for four games as a result of Deflategate. What message is the league sending when a violent physical assault, is in terms of punishment really only slightly worse than tampering with a football for a competitive advantage.
The sin of the tobacco industry was denying in the face of all available evidence that there was a direct correlation between smoking and cancer. It felt that the league was going to follow in the footsteps of the tobacco industry and deny any relationship between CTE and football. That changed in 2016 when the league acknowledged that there was a relationship between the two. But what is the league going to do about player safety? The league is going to spend $100 million (“$60 million to technological development, …$40 million toward funding medical research) to improve player safety. That seems like a lot until you realize that as of 2016 the average NFL team is worth 2.34 billion. With 32 teams worth roughly that much, $100 million seems inadequate to the problem or the amount of money the league could afford to spend on it. Other gamers can make their own conclusions, but until the league is willing to invest more money on player safety, I’m not willing to support the league and I definitely don’t want either of my two sons playing football.
Politics has been inexorably connected to sports and the African American community throughout the 20th century. The Berlin Olympics and the Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling fight matter because it’s where the idea of the superior Aryan race went to die. In 1968 Tommy Smith and John Carlos protested the conditions of African Americans. Muhammad Ali gave up his championship belt and faced imprisonment in refusing to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War. Colin Kaepernick’s protest again police brutality is part of that tradition. I thought after all these examples the American people would be able to have an intelligent about the issues, not specifics of Kapernick’s protest….obviously don’t ask me for the winning powerball numbers.
There is no debate that Kaepernick is being blackballed. He is better than at least several of the current NFL starters and vast majority of backup quarterbacks. Absent some unforeseen revelation Kaepernick isn’t going to be signed to a team this season because the NFL is worried that there are fans that will not watch or spend money on football because of the protests. I understand that, football ultimately is a business. What I want to do is ensure that there is an economic cost on the other side as well, if the league doesn’t want allow him the opportunity to play then I can spend my money on something else.
Being an athlete isn’t just another job. In America and across the world, athletes are our modern day demi-gods and goddesses, doing what we can’t or won’t do and as a consequence inspiring us. That’s why protests matter and they should be supported. I’m not naïve enough to think that not playing Madden or disengaging from football is going to change the world. It doesn’t make me a good person, (feel free to call me a social justice warrior I’ll take it as a complement). But it does make me a conscientious consumer. I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is, that’s not enough but it’s a start.