Are Concussions, Social Protests, Ratings and Other “Problems” True Threats to the NFL? – Sports Illustrated

There seems to be quite the cottage industry in criticizing the NFL these days and, more broadly, even predicting its eventual demise. The reasons are several, ranging from the damaging effects of concussions and CTE to declining broadcast ratings to ineffective leadership to the current tension between players and owners about social protests. Current news of division in the ownership ranks and Jerry Jones’ faceoff with Roger Goodell has given more oxygen to those cries. As Wilt Chamberlain once said, “No one likes to root for Goliath.”

I thought I would analyze the league’s “problems” so far this season and examine if any are true threats to the league’s continued prosperity and popularity. In my opinion, most are not, but there are concerns ahead.


We bemoan the violence, yet we are drawn to it. We gasp at League of Denial, Concussion or the latest CTE studies. We are outraged when players return from concussive blows before being adequately examined, as this past week with Russell Wilson and Jacoby Brissett. Yet none of this is new; the stories, studies, players “playing through,” documentaries and movies have existed in an era where NFL popularity and prosperity has soared. This is a contradiction that so many of us live with every week: we bemoan head trauma in football (and other sports) yet we do not (or perhaps cannot) turn away.

Concussions have been ingrained in NFL conversation since 2009 Congressional hearings that compared NFL (and NFLPA) leadership to the tobacco industry. I believe that every football player, at every level, should be concerned about the cumulative effect of sub-concussive blows; the science is there on this. I am now seeing this on a personal level watching my son deal with concussion recovery after a collision on the soccer field. Whatever my concerns

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