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Can the NFL Succeed Where Others Have Failed?

NFL Football Roger Goodell
NFL Football Roger Goodell

As of the writing of this blog, there is very serious concern about whether or not the college football season will proceed as scheduled. To date, the MAC and a number of FCS conferences including the Ivy League, Big Sky, and Pioneer have already canceled all fall sports due to the impact of coronavirus. On top of that, Power 5 conferences are thinking long and hard about the future of their own seasons. Just today, the Big Ten is considering pulling the plug on fall sports. It seems like there was an attempt at unity among all of the Power 5 conferences on their COVID decisions but it appears there are cracks in that plan. These decisions have very large ramifications and they will not be made lightly by any school involved. It can be hard to know where things stand, especially with where player sentiment is. Just last week, a group of PAC 12 players issued a list of demands ranging from revenue sharing to health and sanitation practices regarding COVID. Certainly the players in the PAC 12 want to be cautious in returning to the field. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Trevor Lawrence has emerged as a leading figure in the “We Want To Play” movement. T Law took to twitter on Sunday night to voice his opinion for a swift and uninterrupted return to play:

Good for Trevor to think his own thoughts but he’s definitely wading knee deep into an extremely complex and emotionally-charged issue that he may not be equipped to handle. All the best.

With the debate raging in the world of college athletics and players and universities starting to take sides, I for one am starting to worry if the NFL can manage its way through the COVID crisis. Thus far, there have not been many major issues that would seem to derail the NFL’s progress, despite a few concessions made months ago (namely no preseason games). We have seen a number of players opt out of the season due to concerns about the virus, most notably Patrick Chung S, New England and the Bears own Eddie Goldman DT, who has struggled with asthma in the past. There are cash payments associated with opting out, with players deemed high-risk receiving $350,000 and accrued NFL season and players less at risk of COVID receiving $150,000.

Where I have cause for concern is whether the NFL organizational structure can handle the coming public opinion storm that is surely headed their way. College football cancellations are dominating the headlines but with the NFL season set to kick off in 1 month, the spotlight will return to Roger Goodell and his policies to adapt through this season. As any casual football fan is already painfully aware of, the NFL does not have a good track record for handling these types of ongoing issues. Whether it’s CTE and concussions or domestic abuse or even performance enhancing substances, the NFL has routinely and catastrophically bumbled their way through. What seems like obvious, easy choices turn out to be huge messes that look bad on the league and even the sport as a whole. Obviously, I want football back as bad as anyone but I think it would wise to start to prepare for some sort of easily avoided fiasco that the NFL will invariably find themselves in. I think that so far, the NFLPA has served as a good check but I have all of my fingers and toes crossed, hoping for a happy ending and football on TV this fall.



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