Football: The Dark Side Of Football

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I love football. I live for the anxious feeling I get as I wait for each play, for the rush of adrenaline I feel when my Eagles enter the red zone. I am drawn in by their season-long crusade, and eagerly cheer them on through each new battle. They light a fire within me whenever they play. Every Sunday a similar blaze tears across our nation, capturing our attention and commanding us to watch our gridiron gladiators. We can’t get enough of football—of our unquestionably, distinctly American sport. The National Football League (NFL) is second to none, and is regarded around the world as the pinnacle of pigskin. Beneath glitz and renown, however, lies football’s darker side. It is a punishing sport, and for every touchdown we cheer for, there …show more content…
The NFL is plagued with a tolerance for incentivized violence, stemming from players and coaches alike. Popular in the 90’s, “Smash for Cash” awarded highlight-reel plays with a cash prize. On one team, the “big hitter pot” was won “if you [knocked] someone completely off their feet and they [landed] on their butt,” according to cornerback Cris Dishman (Barooshian). To put it bluntly, if your tackle was so brutal that it knocked the guy out, you’d win a prize. More recently, it was revealed that the New Orleans Saints had been running a “pay-for-performance” bounty program for years (King). Under the program, players competed for bounties by making excessively violent tackles, and could win “$1,500 for a “knockout” and $1,000 for a “cart-off” with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs” (NFL Communications). Incentivized violence is an ethically damning practice. This is a sport—not a gladiator match—and its athletes deserve to play without extra fear of injury. But could it really be the money that allows the bounty culture to persist? Probably not. NFL players make an average of $1.9 million annually; a thousand dollars extra is chump change, comparatively (Burke). No, the real cause of the bounty culture is the amoral system itself. Players—conditioned by coaches and fans to tolerate violence—are already primed to act without regard for their …show more content…
The players’ health was at stake, and awarding cash prizes breached our ethical code, and more importantly, violated NFL policy. Sportswriter Peter King followed the League’s proceedings, and reported that “Such bounties… violate the NFL’s constitution and by-laws and the collective bargaining agreement, all of which state, ‘No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on-field misconduct’” (King). The ‘bounty-rule’— as it came to be known by the media, was embedded in the NFL’s foundational coda, and reflected an emphasis on moral play. This belief has a fatal flaw: neither document outlines any such ‘bounty-rule.’ King’s misattributed quote comes from a memo released by the League which outlines the bounty policy (NFL Communications). This memo is an interpretation of NFL Constitution and By-laws sections 9.1 (C)(8), and 9.3(F) and (G), both of which address Non-Contract bonuses (NFL Communications). Section 9.3 (F) of the Constitution and By-laws reads as

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