Last week belonged to that one word. Scandals left and right rocked the two most popular sports in America.
For everyone who thought the Ray Rice furor had ended, JUST KIDDING! The league might have gone full Richard Nixon to sweep issues under the rug. For those who thought racist issues in the NBA were over after Donald Sterling, NOPE! The Atlanta Hawks will see that and raise you one by stereotyping and talking about African heritage as though it were some delinquent character trait. And this is without even mentioning that Adrian Peterson, NFL MVP and one of its most marketable superstars, was involved in a child abuse case brought about this weekend.
The hypocrisy started with the leagues themselves. In the NBA, why did Adam Silver feel that Hawks GM Danny Ferry didn’t deserve to be suspended for his remarks? Those remarks were just as classless and tasteless as Sterling’s, and not to mention, were actually uttered in a professional setting. How come Ferry gets a pass?
In the NFL, why was Roger Goodell allowed to plead ignorance when he was the one who had explicitly stated that ignorance was not an excuse in the great Bounty Gate witch-hunt? What’s Goodell going to say come October, when he tries to force all the pink apparel into every corner in supposed support of women, when in reality, the league has shown that it could care less about domestic abuse? Where was all the demand for accountability now? How come Peterson will be allowed to play next weekend after actions far worse than what Minnesota has cut lesser players for?
The answers on the surface may be simple enough. It’s all about the profits and the bottom line. As long as business is good, nothing else matters. But it reveals a larger problem. These leagues trumpet themselves outwardly as bastions of social responsibility, but when push comes to shove, it’s nothing more than some cheap words and some hot air. Where’s the accountability in that? The best take I read on the Ray Rice fiasco illustrates this well: the NFL didn’t attempt to cut ties with Rice when it found out and saw (maybe) what happened. It cut ties when everyone else found out what happened.
This is how corporate America works. And let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that two multi-billion dollar sports leagues aren’t part of corporate America. Unfortunately, this leads to another problematic aspect of hypocrisy- an attack on our very fanhood. Are we, dare I say, hypocrites for watching these games when there are some clear moral and ethical dilemmas involved in the fibers of their very dynamic?
Let’s not look at this in terms of products but rather entertainment. If it turns out one of the actors that Marvel has casted in its movies so far is a bigot, would I stop watching his movies? Yes. But would I stop watching all Marvel movies? I don’t think so.
Okay, you say, but what if Marvel as an organization really shows that it doesn’t care about the specific prejudicial issues? In that case, I might be forced to stop buying the tickets and supporting the studio. But I’ll retort with this: what if Marvel was the only accessible movie studio and producer in the country? And that’s the root of the issue with sports. The NBA and the NFL are the only accessible and professional basketball and football leagues. It’s a quiet monopoly, hidden under the covers of college athletics and various sports leagues around the world.
If I supported the Ravens or the Vikings or the Hawks in any form, then I deserve to be criticized. However, I’m allowed to take issue with the league and at the same time acknowledge that as a fan, I’ll still follow the game heartily. I enjoy it too much. It’s not a black and white, all or nothing proposition. I can’t forsake my fanhood entirely. The other teams and players haven’t done anything wrong (not yet or that we know of at least). They shouldn’t be punished for the transgressions of their governing entity.
Football and basketball aren’t in the wrong; the NFL and NBA are. Maybe one day when there are leagues comparable in quality to the NFL and NBA, I’ll be able to give up on them. But as it stands, to stop following them would require me to cut ties with the sport itself. And ultimately, I’m not a hypocrite for not wanting to do so.
Fanhood doesn’t work that way.