By Ken Reed

So, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue ruled in favor of Jonathan Vilma and against current commissioner Roger Goodell in the NFL’s New Orleans Saints Bountygate case.  Interesting little side drama.  But that’s all the Tagliabue ruling is.  In fact, the whole Bountygate case is but a side drama.

Bountygate is an NFL-created PR tactic designed to help demonstrate that the league’s doing all it can to make football safer.  Here’s what the NFL is trying to sell us:  Football is not inherently evil.  If we just clean it up some and put in a few safety measures all those nasty brain trauma stories will go away, fans can get back to cheering the big hits, and we can get back to making obscene money off men running full speed into each other, often leading with their heads.

Patrick Hruby has written a good piece on Bountygate and its strategic use as a distraction by NFL power brokers.

“At its core, Bountygate has never been about Goodell versus Vilma, a proxy war between players and owners, the trampling of due process or even whether Saints defenders actually had a Cash-4-Cart-Offs bounty system,” writes Hruby.  “No, Bountygate is and will always be about violence.  About the NFL’s ongoing, increasingly strained efforts to make football’s inherent violence and inevitable human wreckage palatable.”

Here’s the inconvenient truth for Goodell and the NFL owners:  Football is inherently dangerous, especially to one’s brain.  There aren’t enough safety measures that can be implemented — apart from going to flag football — to change that fact.

“Hitting causes brain trauma,” concludes Hruby.  “And hitting is the sport, no matter who Goodell fines or suspends, no matter how well intended he, the league’s players or anyone else happens to be.  Including the rest of us. A society that has fashioned a de facto national pastime out of increasingly self-evident harm.  Never mind just.  Is that right?

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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