"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The NFL Has Gone Soft

If you're a sports fan, no doubt you've heard about the recent ruckus in regards to the NFL's Washington Redskins.

The story, as I've heard it, is basically as follows:

A few detractors - such as the Oneida Indian Nation - have been, as of late, a little more vocal than usual in calling for the Washington franchise to drop the divisive, hateful, racist, downright offensive mascot of "Redskins," and replace it with something politically correct.

As it so happens, Dan Snyder is the owner of the Redskins, and has said publicly that he has no plans to sell or step down. So, it seems for the time being that the Redskins name is here to stay.

But on Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this on a D.C. radio show:

"If one person is offended, we have to listen."

Read the whole story on Brietbart

Bottom line: I think the NFL has gone soft.

Before I go on, a brief disclaimer: I don't believe the game on the field is necessarily softer. As someone who never played organized football, but did play college basketball, I take nothing away from the grueling, taxing, athletic nature of football itself - although some recent rule changes have given many observers reason to wonder if the game is in fact getting softer.

I say the NFL is soft because of the front office. Not that the desire to listen to people who are offended isn't an honorable thing. I don't deny that the term "redskins" is a sensitive term, hearkening back to the bloody, usually racism-fueled confrontations between "white man" and the "inferior" "injuns" or "redskins." However, the term can also be a badge of honor, and is in fact thought of as such by some Native Americans.

Clearly, Goodell hasn't said they will change the name, or that it's even on the table. In fact, from what I know, it would be up to the franchise itself to change the mascot, and the NFL itself couldn't step in and change the name on its own. But, the phrasing of the quote above does suggest a politically-correct softness that is, in many ways, anathema to the brutal nature of football itself. Offending people is part of the sport. But we don't have a right to not be offended.

If this event were simply an isolated incident, then it may not be such a big deal. But coupled with the recent concussion settlement (needed or not needed, it did come across as much more conciliatory than the NFL has ever been), and the rule changes of recent memory which have cut down on the number and severity of hits and tackles (to the detriment of defenses around the league), the NFL appears to be softer than ever before. Good or bad, that's the topic of another discussion. And relatively speaking, the NFL is a long way from high school powderpuff football. Has the new "softness" lessened the game's appeal? Doesn't seem like it. Has it decreased the number of severe injuries? Maybe. Good chance severe injuries will go down, if they haven't already.

Ultimately, my concern is not with the NFL's policies or business model. I like the NFL. I like the entertainment and intrigue of athletics at the highest level. Whether it succeeds or fails won't affect my day-to-day life all that much. But I'm afraid this is a harbinger of society itself - of a society where we have a right to not be offended, and where we rely on someone else - "big brother", or mommy and daddy - to solve our problems. My generation is a coddled generation unlike ever before, so I don't think this vision is too far from the realm of possibility.

Do I sound pessimistic? A little. Is this another "slippery slope" argument? It's sliding that direction. (see what I did there?) Am I over-thinking this? Probably. But I am relying on an observation of the data? I think so. And the data isn't very reassuring.

What do you think?

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