The national football disgrace

Submitted by Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The lid on the National Football League (NFL) has been lifted and the picture is not pretty…nor should it be surprising. We now discover that numerous players are facing charges of battery, domestic abuse and even murder. Former New England Patriot star Aaron Hernandez sits in a Massachusetts lock up charged with homicide and suspected of other killings. A number of elite players are facing accusations of wife beating and child abuse.

We should not be shocked, but we should be appalled! It now seems quite obvious that authorities in the highest echelons of the NFL for years turned a blind eye to what was common knowledge that some or even many of its players were engaged in violence away from the stadiums and playing fields. One of its elite quarterbacks went to prison a few years ago for extreme animal cruelty, but is now welcomed back into the ranks of the League and right here in New York.

We should not be at all shocked at this spasm of violent behavior because football at the scholastic and professional levels has become the essence of condoned violence. Young men are taught and rewarded for their roughness and aggression and are even encouraged to inflict pain and punishment on their opponents. In the professional ranks, they are paid millions of dollars and celebrated for their physicality.

In short, those who are interested in a football career are instructed from the very beginning that extreme rough play is not only ok, but it is essential to success. Long gone are the days when the tools of football were athletic passing, catching and running as well as blocking and tackling. Those skills and abilities have been largely replaced with brutality and collision. The number of serious injuries on the field including concussions and broken bones increase each year. So why should anyone be surprised that those combative tendencies honed in these young men, fueled at times with steroids or other high potency performance “supplements”, have also been responsible for off field violence?

Players have been prodded towards aggression as a means for success. They should know the difference between a football game and life, but sadly many do not.

We should be disgusted not only by this thuggish behavior by the players but also by those coaches in high School, college and professional ranks who encourage and even insist upon this kind of intimidating play. For these adults who instruct their players to engage in such aggressive and dangerous conduct, our strong condemnation must be voiced. They are as responsible for the off field violence as the individual players themselves. These coaches are supposed to be educators and responsible mentors and should know better. But winning a game by any means necessary has replaced the sense of sportsmanship that athletics used to embody. No more. It is all about winning and the fame and riches that goes with it.

It is really too bad because the glory and joy of playing and competing in sports has been usurped for a much lower form of gratification. We are all injured and diminished because of that.

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