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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    NFL is a reflection on violent culture

    The National Football League doesn’t only play a role in American culture, but also plays a role in forming it.

    Violence is some kind of morbid form of communication in this country. The exploitation of poor black men and of women, as demonstrated by the NFL and its scandals, is simply one extension of a culture mad on war and the spectacle of violence. Our billion-dollar sports stadiums and arenas have become modern-day cathedrals, where the idols of entertainment, war and consumption are glorified. The Ray Rice scandal and the subsequent scandals that have gripped the NFL over the last several weeks are merely a reflection of our society’s commodification of athletes and the routine brutalization of women.

    Americans have allowed themselves to place their energy, money and beliefs into sports industries that make money from the performance of athletes taken predominantly from economically disadvantaged communities. The 49rs Levi’s Stadium cost more than a billion dollars. The money to pay for it was borrowed by the city of Santa Clara, Calif., from Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and U.S. Bank, the high priests of our national religion and the chief architects of an economy in which so many young boys grow up in poverty. And then those boys grow up to become athletes, because the economy affords them few other opportunities to become wealthy.

    Americans cared little for these athletes when they were growing up in abject poverty, but once they become instruments of amusement and entertainment, people pour praise and adulation upon their newfound heroes. And then they make money off of them.

    The average life expectancy for NFL players is 55 years. Most leave the game in debt or declare bankruptcy within five years of retirement. The NFL has admitted in court documents resulting from its own investigations that as many as one-third of all retired players show signs of brain trauma and demonstrate these symptoms at an earlier age than the regular population.

    The NFL sells their talents, while their talents lead to their own early deaths.

    Somehow, this is deemed acceptable — or maybe people just don’t care, so long as their team wins and the next crop of players is drafted or enters the college level. Team loyalty has taken on a cult-like or pseudo-religious nature.

    But we as a country engage in a collective freak-out when the violence is unmasked and the fruits of that culture show up in a video of an NFL player — who is paid to be strong and, indeed, violent — beating his intimate partner. People focus on the NFL and hope that the blame will be drawn away from everyone else, that nobody will notice that the League is a representation of American culture as a whole. At least 100 million people watched the last Super Bowl. Football is a multi-billion dollar industry. In economic terms, no one is blameless in the League’s crimes. And the League’s crimes are just reflections of larger societal ones.

    According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.”

    The media and activist groups have come down hard on the NFL for its lax policies on domestic abuse, but there has been little coverage on the rates of domestic violence among the nation’s police forces, a rate higher than that of the NFL. While people get solemn during the national anthem and “God Bless America,” they rarely remember the thousands of women in the military who have been victims of sexual abuse. These women often remain in silence or are pressured by a culture that tells them they are to blame for what happened.

    Their feeling of powerlessness is matched only by the hyper masculinity that attempts to impose the same silence — not with women, but entire nations.

    People need to talk about the NFL and American culture and the violence that binds them together.

    Abe Jimenez is a graduate student studying Middle East and North African Studies. Follow him on Twitter @A_Ximenez

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