“Put the trumpet to your lips!
An eagle is over the house of the Lord
because the people have broken my covenant
and rebelled against my law.
(Read the rest of the chapter here!)
The NFL is like an idolic religion for some. A calf that a metalworker has made, you might say. And that is our jumping off point for today, because there has been a lot of talk about Michael Vick getting recognized at the upcoming Pro Bowl.
Let me just go on record as saying, what Michael Vick did was atrocious. I have pitbulls myself, and it just shatters my heart to think about those poor dogs he put to fighting. Do I think he should be recognized at the Pro Bowl? I honestly don’t know. My knee-jerk reaction is “no.” But, he’s done prison time, he’s paid fines, paid for some of the dogs’ rehabilitation, and has partnered with the director of the Humane Society to speak at anti-dogfighting forums (where he pays his own expenses, by the way). This article is a few years old, but does a good job painting a fair picture of Vick. And, as the author says, dogs themselves live in the moment, wanting to forgive and love and get back to playing….so maybe if a dog can forgive Vick, then we can to.
With that out of the way, let me also say that Vick is just a symptom of a larger problem that is the NFL. Chris and I stopped watching football years ago. We love the sport: Chris played it in high school and the Superbowl has consistently been one of my favorite events of the year since I’ve been young. (My birthday is January 27th, so it was always around my birthday and felt like a second party.) But the NFL just has too many problems to keep watching it. Let’s list some, shall we?
- Openly racist names and mascots, particularly the Washington Redskins.
- Roethlisberger, twice accused of rape (one case settled in civil court, one where the prosecutor refused to press charges), still starts for the Steelers.
- The NFL (an organization that makes over 10 BILLION dollars a year) was exempt from federal taxes until 2014.
- The NFL does not care – at least, not care enough – about the players’ health and safety. Autopsies of 202 deceased NFL players showed that 99% suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Side note: not all these guys are millionaires. Apparently NFL retirement benefits suck and many face financial hardship.
- Their charitable causes are often just marketing campaigns in pretty packaging. Let’s take Breast Cancer Awareness month. Here’s all the official NFL gear that you can get to that end. Some proceeds may go to breast-cancer awareness, but you know their making a pretty penny off of it, too. And how many new viewers do you think the NFL got when all that started? Hm?
- Selective blindness to player personal conduct. Their suspension system makes no sense. Some of my favorites: Tom Brady for cheating (remember Deflategate?) for only 4 games in 2015; Adam Jones for attacking a stripper and threatening a security guard’s life for one season in 2007; Mike Reilly for vehicular manslaughter for one season in 1983.
- And the biggie: Self-reinforcing institutionalized racism runs rampant in the NFL and its fans. Colin Kaepernick and Michael Vick – two black men – are the ones getting people riled up. Not the (white) rapist Roethlisberger or Dan Snyder (white owner of the Redskins), who flat out refuses to engage in a name-change discussion.
- Everything else: personal conduct of the team owners, the league’s steroid policy, problems with the officials…you get the point.
If this chapter of Hosea has one overarching message, it’s that God doesn’t want lip-service, God wants your heart. So wringing your hands over Michael Vick and talking about how terrible he is but not acknowledging the larger problem? It means you’re just looking for something to talk about. Are you actually worried about Michael Vick’s behavior, and perhaps the NFL at large? Then stop watching. I’m not asking you to physically join the protests, which do happen fairly frequently over various NFL-related issues. Simply, don’t tune in. Don’t tune in for the Pro-Bowl, as many anti-Vick commentators are claiming they will do. But then, don’t tune in for the Superbowl either. Then don’t tune in next pre-season. There are plenty of other things to watch or do on Sunday. This is literally the easiest form of activism you can possibly do: not doing something. I miss it, I do, but seriously folks, what do you think the NFL would do if viewers and attendees dropped by 50% for a season? Maybe even for a single Superbowl? They’d be scrambling to get some changes made. We’d see more personal accountability from the players and the owners, more concern for the player’s health and safety, more inclusivity and less racism. Then we could all get back to watching football after church again, and not have to feel guilty about it.
(Also, since it’s Monday, I wanted to let you know I called my representatives. I talked about the Border Crisis again. If you want to do the same, here is the script I made for today’s call: Hello, my name is _________ and I’m calling from zip-code _______. Nine thousand people travelling across the Southern Border *as families* were arrested in November, which is the start of the slow season. Defunding of DHS programs like MPP, and increased funding of the Office of Refugee Resettlement needs to be addressed before refugee numbers start to surge again in the spring.)
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