Last week the National Football League went to great lengths to prove just how much it doesn’t care about its fans. The league decided not to change the celebration rules, so it will continue to fine players if they do anything other than politely hand the ball to a referee after a touchdown. But, the rule-makers did outlaw leaping on field goal attempts, because heaven forbid anyone try to do something cool on the most boring play in football. And to top it off, the owners approved the Oakland Raiders' proposal to move to Las Vegas.
So how did the fans benefit from any of these changes? They didn’t.
Last season, many players and fans complained about the NFL’s celebration rules. Players were constantly getting penalized and then fined for making big plays. You’d think a sport that takes commercial breaks at every opportunity imaginable and takes up to 40 seconds in between plays would want the game to be more fun, but apparently not.
The ban on field goal leaping is at least somewhat defensible. The NFL Player’s Association had already called for the rule change out of concern for player safety. However, the risk of injury is existent on any play in football. Leaping field-goal blocks are so rare that it’s going to make no difference to this issue. And on top of that, it now gives teams less strategic choices to block a field goal when they really need to.
The Raiders move is obviously the most glaring example of the NFL kicking its fans in the face to make an extra buck. In the past 15 months, three teams have either left or agreed to leave their hometowns: the St. Louis Rams moved to Los Angeles last season, the Chargers agreed to move to LA starting next season and now the Raiders. In all three of these cases, billionaire sports owners left their cities and abandoned millions of fans because they couldn’t get their hands on hundreds of millions of dollars to build new football stadiums.
The NFL wants cities to ignore the actual issues affecting their citizens to build arenas that the league and owners could easily afford, but choose not to. And with three teams moving in the past year or so, every city with an NFL team will be on edge waiting for the day they get a demand for a new stadium. Jacksonville doesn’t want to build the Jaguars a new stadium? That’s fine, they’ll just move to Oakland or St. Louis, which desperately wants a team back. The NFL can take every city hostage until it meets its demands, otherwise fans will risk losing their team.
Unfortunately, nothing will change. NFL fans have supported the league through many crises (concussions, domestic abuse scandals, etc.). And with the league raking in billions of dollars every year, it has no incentive to change.
On the bright side, no more deflated footballs.
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