Brutal week shows exposes how NFL could lose its hold with public

My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana is on the impact of the week that was for the NFL.

From the column:


The day after the opening Sunday of the new season, I was in the process of writing a column for this space about the massive popularity of the NFL. I asked the question of whether there was such a thing as too much.

Not to quote myself, but here were my opening paragraphs:

You probably would get sick if you had access to an endless supply of the world’s best chocolate. You might even get bored if you got to play Augusta National every day, although I would like to try.

Insert your favorite activity, food, whatever and chances are you will hit a tipping point where too much of a good thing is no good.

Yet the threshold of excess doesn’t seem possible when it comes to the NFL.

“If it’s on TV, I’m watching it,” said Jimmy Johnson, the former coach turned analyst for Fox Sports. “As far as I’m concerned, they can put it on every day of the week.”

Obviously, since Johnson’s life is football, you would expect him to think that way. But here’s the thing: many of us want the same thing.

America can’t get enough of the NFL. Thanks to the endless studio shows and programming from NFL Network and ESPN, the league has become 24/7 viewing for fans.


Then the Ray Rice video bombshell hit. I put the column aside and detailed all the coverage aspects of that huge story.

When I finally had some time, I returned to my NSJC column in progress. Quickly I realized, this was not the week to write about the public’s insatiable appetite for the NFL.

Instead, last week’s string of shocking events showed that it is possible that the NFL could lose its grip on the public. It is conceivable that America’s No. 1 sport could screw this thing up.

At the end of the day, credibility and reputation still carry quite a bit of weight in this country. Clearly, it wasn’t a good week on both ends for the NFL.

“What a sad week for the National Football League,” said Tom Jackson on ESPN’s NFL Countdown. “I can’t remember as many mistakes as have been made over the course of the last week. Actually, it even begins before that.”

In a column for Sports Business Daily, executive editor Abraham D. Madkour writes the NFL’s credibility now is at an all-time low:

“In the sports business, belief in the NFL and its executives remains strong. But the public looks at the league with distrust, and feels it is socially, and perhaps morally, out of touch. That’s been the collateral damage of this decision-making style, this drive for $25 billion.”


And the link to the rest of the column.


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