These are my general thoughts on four of the controversial points that got brought up during the 2013-14 NFL season. I do not touch on concussions because if I did I’d still be writing, and I’m trying to keep these entries relatively short. I really love football to a degree that I should probably get checked out, so even though it’s the off season now there could still be football entries. Most likely I’ll switch gears back to politics and the Olympics for this month.
Olympics- I do not think that American Football should be an Olympic sport. It takes at least five or six days to reasonably recover from the athletic rigor of a football game, and even then, multiple five day breaks in a row will leave the two teams competing for the gold so exhausted that the championship would be unwatchable. This is the same reason rugby 7s is included but rugby 15s isn’t. You can’t reasonably have pool play followed by a tournament under the time restrictions that the Olympics impose.
There is also the issue that even if a time table was created that allowed for proper rest, it would be a laugher of a sport in the same way the Men’s Basketball tournament is. Anyone remember USA’s opening match against Nigeria in the 2012 London games? The final score was 156-73. That can barely be called sports much less Olympic level competition. Perhaps if the NFL is successful in expanding to Europe, Mexico, or Canada and American Football becomes a more international sport this could change, but that still leaves the timing issue.
I have heard the argument that an Olympic medal should be the greatest achievement in a given sport, and if that’s not the case the sport shouldn’t be included. That would apply to American Football as the super bowl is going to be more prestigious. I have mixed feelings about this argument because it would mean eliminating Soccer from Olympic play as well because no one country is going to trade a World Cup title for Olympic gold.
This idea was only brought up briefly during the season and was mostly shot down, but I wanted to weigh in on it anyways as with Sochi right around the corner, we might hear it again.
Eliminating Extra Points- The NFL is generally more willing than other sports to change core aspects of game play. That is a good thing. It keeps things fresh and allows innovations like instant replay, that can and do drastically improve the sport, to be incorporated quickly. The sport is not stuck singing the praises of tradition louder than a Fiddler On the Roof ensemble(I’m looking at your Baseball). I support eliminating extra points. In the last ten years the average success rate s 99.6% and rising on extra point kicks. Some change is required and there are three options I would support.
1. Eliminate the kick entirely. Teams are allowed to either take the extra point for free after scoring a touchdown or they are still allowed to risk the point by going for the two point conversion, and if that is missed being stuck with six.
2. Whoever scores the touchdown must kick the extra point. It would force teams to evaluate wide receivers and running backs on their kicking ability. Those times an offensive lineman gets a lucky fumble and sumo wrestles their way into the end zone would lead to some tense(read: incredible!) extra points. This idea would likely be nixed the moment a high caliber quarterback scrambles for a touchdown and then sprains a hamstring on the extra point, putting them on injured reserve for the season.
3. Place the kick at the spot the scoring player is tackled in the endzone. This would be stealing a page from rugby’s book. Currently the extra point is spotted in the exact middle of the field at the two yard line. If a player squeaks in just at the sideline for a touchdown, suddenly the extra point is spotted at the sideline as well and the kicker has to deal with the angle. In rugby you are allowed to move as far back as you’d like, but suddenly you’re balancing distance with that angle, and I think that leads to the kind of tension the NFL wants in the extra point.
Non-Profit Status- This is another issue that crops up every couple years or so. People remember that the NFL is a non-profit organization, then all the profits that the NFL teams make is cited and people get upset. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the NFL actually breaks up its power and its revenue, but before we get to that I want it stated I think deciding a group can’t be non profit because they are too good at what they do is a dangerous precedent to set. If you want to argue the NFL doesn’t fit the definition required to be a non profit that is one thing, but arguing they make too much money, therefor they can’t be a non profit is separate.
The NFL is a tax exempt group, the teams aren’t. Each individual team pays corporate tax, and if a team is given money by the NFL, that money is taxed as corporate income. If the NFL pays a wage to someone, that wage is taxed as personal income. The NFL’s job is to set rules and promote the welfare of the 32 teams in the NFL who all pay taxes. This is the same function that business leagues and chambers of commerce serve all over the country, and just like the NFL, those organizations all receive tax exempt status.
The amount the NFL makes in a year is often inflated because it gets confused with the amount the individual teams make. Tax code requires non profits have public tax returns, so we can see for ourselves on the 990 form filed in 2011 by the NFL(PDF) they made 255 million with 332 million in expenses, not 9.5 billion per year as one facebook petition was suggesting.
Again, if you want to argue they don’t fit the definition of a non profit corp because of their activities, fine. If you want to argue they shouldn’t receive additional public funding for stadiums, that’s a whole separate debate. I’m simply stating that arguing the NFL should get its tax exempt status revoked because it makes too much money is about as ridiculous as saying Denver just barely lost the super bowl.
Redskins Name Controversy- Yes, I know this was the topic du jour a couple months back, but I didn’t have a blog then and my end of the season wrap up seems like a fine place for it. Let’s start by going back more than a couple months.
In 1911 the Baseball team the Boston Rustlers changed their name to the Boston Braves(currently the Atlanta Braves) and in 1915 moved into newly constructed Braves field. In 1932 a new football team was formed out of the former Newark Tornadoes, they needed a field to play on and worked out a deal to also play at Braves field, and adopted the same name as the baseball team. For a time there were baseball and football teams in Boston named the Braves, I don’t envy the sports writers. In 1933 the football team was moved from Braves field to Fenway park, home of the Boston Red Sox. After leaving Braves field, the football team couldn’t really stay as the Braves, so as to once again blend in with the Baseball team they were sharing a field with, the football team became the Boston Redskins. In 1937 the Boston Redskins moved to Washington and shared stadiums with the baseball team the Washington Senators(currently the Minnesota Twins), this time they kept their name Redskins.
To go along with the name, they also hired William ‘Lone Star’ Dietz to coach the team during the 33 and 34 seasons. Dietz had played college ball for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School under coach Pop Warner(Yes, that Pop Warner) and alongside arguably the greatest college football player ever Jim Thorpe. Dietz’s heritage is claimed to be 100% native american by some, but others accuse him of falsifying his identity to avoid the draft. Either way the owner of the then Boston Redskins still proudly advertised the full blooded native american coach to go along with his new team. Further unsubstantiated claims state that the current Redskins logo is a profile portrait of Coach Dietz. OK, history lesson done. Source Source and Source
Now, is Redskin a racial slur against Native Americans? Absolutely. Does anyone who is cheering for or against the football team, that acquired this name before 99% of the fans were born, mean any offense to people of Native American decent? No. Are the intentions of fans enough to override the real history of a word? No the history of the word stands, but it should be noted that calling the fans racist for cheering for their team isn’t going to solve anything and is likely not at all accurate. Let’s save that label for people who earn it.
A couple interesting poll numbers to consider. When specifically Native Americans were surveyed the answer came back with only 9% calling the name offensive. The sample size was 768 respondents across 48 states. Link to full survey, PDF again, sorry. In two separate polls 21% of the country said they had a problem with the name and 59% said Native Americans have a right to feel offended. Source, not a PDF! It is clear that the general public has more of an issue with the name than people the name is supposed to offend.
I could attempt to measure 91% of a minority being fine with use of a word in its current context against the weight of the history of racism again Native Americans in this country, but I have a better way of deciding whether or not the Redskins owner should change the name. I’m going to look at this like a gambler, what are my odds of winning and what could I win?
Earlier I pointed out that the vast majority of the team’s fans aren’t racist, they just love their team. They’d love their team equally as much with a different name. People in DC aren’t suddenly going to quit being fans because of a name change. The survey I cited earlier that wasn’t a PDF also had a question about this. They asked Redskins fans how a name change would affect their fandom, 75% said it wouldn’t affect it at all or make them bigger fans. The fans clearly don’t care and will stay loyal to their team.
The thing that would sway me as an owner though is the financial motivations. Estimates state that if a team moved to LA and had a new name, color scheme, and logo, they would make 200 million in the first year from merchandising alone. I heard this in an interview on ESPN, so I apologize I don’t have a source for that number. Obviously a name, logo, and possible color change in the same city wouldn’t pull in quite that much, but would it be unreasonable to think Redskins could still earn 1/3-1/2 of that? The owner of the Redskins would also likely be able to keep a larger percentage of merchandise sales because the NFL would be happy to renegotiate contracts and forfeit some of the proceeds to get this scarlet letter off their skin. In changing the name, you don’t lose many fans and you make what economists refer to as an “assload” of money, and you get to play up your organization as socially conscious for decades to come. Simple decision in my eyes.
Will we see a name change? I doubt we’ll see it under current ownership. Dan Snyder has made it quite clear he has no intention of changing the name because he grew up cheering for the Redskins and wants others to experience that. It’s also unlikely the other 31 owners will vote to change the name against Snyder’s will because the other owners don’t want to set a precedent that could later be used against them in their ownership. The only wild card in this is current Redskins star player Robert Griffin iii. He is rumored to have a ton of sway with Snyder as Snyder has wagered a lot of money on this guy being the franchise QB for years to come. If RG3 came out on one side or the other of this issue, that could carry some serious force.
My money is on the Redskins staying the Redskins despite the obvious social and financial benefits, with minimal risk, that a name change carries. It’s tough to say how much longer Snyder will keep ownership or if he might write a clause into the sale agreement stipulating the name has to stay the same. That seems unlikely though, and I think when the Redskins get new owners they’ll get a new name, but it won’t happen with Snyder as the chief.
As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.