Bill Press: NFL makes DC look good

Bill Press: NFL makes DC look good
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Members of Congress are walking around with big smiles on their faces these days. And no wonder — they’re used to being the most disgraced people in the country, but now, there’s one group that has an even worse reputation: the NFL.

Most attention has been focused on how the NFL bungled the case of now-former Ravens running back Ray Rice. First, it ignored reports of him punching his fiancee. When video surfaced of Rice dragging her out of an elevator, it only banned him for two games. Then, after a second video of him knocking her unconscious was released, the NFL finally suspended him indefinitely — but only after the Ravens had dropped him from the squad. And Commissioner Roger Goodell still contends no one in the organization had previously seen the elevator video, even though several witnesses insist they had.

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Rice is not the only NFL player currently in trouble. Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald also face charges of domestic violence against them. Aaron Hernandez is cooling his heels in prison for murder. And now Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been indicted for child abuse after beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch — a practice he proudly defends as nothing more than “stern parenting.”

But those high-profile players are just the tip of the iceberg. USA Today maintains records on NFL players who break the law, and the numbers are staggering: One out of every 40 NFL players is arrested at least once a year. You couldn’t say that about police officers, firefighters, teachers or members of any other profession.

Some teams have a worse record than others. The Vikings lead the list, with 44 players arrested between January 2000 through September 2014. Out of 32 teams, an average 22 players per team — out of 53 active players and eight on the practice squad — are arrested and charged each year. The most common offense is drunken driving, with 202 arrests during that same period. There were 88 arrests for assault and battery, 82 for drug-related offenses and — Rice is hardly alone — 85 cases of domestic violence. And those are just the cases reported. Many slip through the cracks or are covered up.

As if that’s not enough bad news, the NFL, after years of denial, finally admitted last week that nearly a third of retired players will suffer long-term brain damage. 

For the NFL, this negative publicity raises many troubling questions, including whether the franchise’s philosophy of “Protect the Shield” results in cover-up of illegal activities, whether the game itself encourages violence both on and off the field and why Americans, alone in the world, love the sport. Most importantly, it raises questions about Goodell. He’s made a lot of money for the NFL over the last eight years, but has he also destroyed its reputation? 

One thing for sure: Congress would never allow such a flawed leader to remain on the job. Neither should the NFL. 

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.