The NFL is Out of Control and Football is Failing

New Orleans       There is no danger whatsoever that anyone will start calling American football the “beautiful game,” which is sometimes the expression used internationally for what the world sees as football, which we call soccer.  Football is earning the moniker of the “deadly” game for its institutionalized violence, mayhem, maiming, racism, and more.

I was bumped up to first-class flying home recently.  My seatmate on this leg was an orthopedic surgeon who over the last fifteen years had built the sports medicine center at a big local hospital chain that served all of the southern Louisiana sports world except for one university.  Would he let his son play football?  Heck, no!  He was going west next year on a soccer scholarship.  Did all of these helmet changes by the NFL make the game any safer for the players?  Heck, no, he answered!  What did he think about paying players?  The good doctor thought that universities and the pros should guarantee lifetime healthcare coverage to any athlete playing football at any level.  Why?  Because, all of them are going to need it.  He tells others his views on the sidelines.  I didn’t ask his name, and he didn’t ask mine, but we both knew we had played high school football, loved the game, and in my case, I had torn ligaments and cartilage in my left knee and a Vietnam war exemption to prove it.   Youth participation in football has now gone down an average of 10%, and sometimes more, even in Southern states where the sport has long been king.

If this wasn’t enough, the National Football League, despite being an economic powerhouse worth billions, continues to shoot itself in the foot and everywhere else.  A player for the Cleveland Browns has been indefinitely suspended for ripping a Steeler quarterback’s helmet off and hitting him in the head with it.  Assault with a deadly weapon and an arrest will not be forthcoming, because there is a legal assumption that when players take the field that they have agreed to an implicit sanctioning of violence.  Cam Newton, a former MVP in the league who led his team to the Super Bowl not so long ago and quarterbacked his college team to the national championship, has been out hurt for most of two years and could be gone.  Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts quit after eight years because he didn’t think he should continue dealing with injuries.  The list is endless, and no one seems to learn anything.

When the NFL takes its head out of the sand, it specializes in farce.  The Commissioner after two years of piddling and more recently being prodded by Jay-Z, who shamed himself by throwing Colin Kaepernick under the bus so that his company could make a marketing deal with the NFL, gave him four days’ notice for a special workout in Atlanta where all teams were invited.  The NFL’s hand seems to have been forced when two teams asked them whether or not it was OK to give him a workout, implicitly confirming the common knowledge that he has been blackballed for his on-field protests against racism and police violence.  The farce includes the fact that many teams wouldn’t be able to get their general managers or head coaches to Atlanta on such quick notice for the Saturday before their own game days.  Count on the hater-baiter Dallas owner, Jerry Jones, to pop off about not sending anyone, and then, obviously under pressure by the league, have to get somebody there with a Cowboys’ t-shirt to up the number of participating squads.  No one should be holding their breath waiting for a contract offer for Kaepernick, nor is there any indication that he would stop his protest.

Typical of everything about football’s leadership at the professional level or the semi-pro NCAA level, no problem is ever confronted and solved whether about health, violence, or certainly race.  The standard football playbook for dealing with all of this is just to push the problems further on down the field.  The final signal call will be when they also kill the sport.

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Come on up, Mississippi – Time for a New Constitution!

Little Rock      On the Peoples’ Daily News that I do for the Affiliated Media Foundation Movement (AM/FM) and all of our stations, I scrounge the daily papers for factoids and news bits that might interest our listeners and give them a brief sense of the fine hands that are pulling the strings behind current events.  An item caught my eye recently that snapped by head back:

Under the 1890 Mississippi constitution passed as a Jim Crow measure, statewide officers must win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of the 122 House districts comprising the state House of Representatives.  If no one wins a double majority, the House may choose the governor.

Make no mistake, this was all about white supremacy and a result of the work of the Redeemer movement organized in the South to undermine the Reconstruction effort after the end of the American Civil War.  In the wake of the war and the end of slavery, more than 80% of black males registered to vote.  In the 19th century, no women in the United States were yet allowed to vote so of course their servitude continued.  Mississippi in writing its constitution in the perverse wisdom of its political leaders could see the day coming when they might not have the majority so this doubletake effort at preserving white rule in the constitution might postpone that day.

Now, almost 130 years later, with the highest percentage of African-American population in the country at 38%, the racists seem to have done their work well.  Of course, taking away the votes gained under Reconstruction until the late 1960s and beyond worked marvelously for them as well.  As I visited with the Delta Foundation and WDSV in Greenville and then We2together, the nonprofit community development corporation, in Sunflower County’s Drew, Mississippi, I asked about this weird piece of political science.  Most were surprised to hear this clause was in fact still in the Mississippi constitution, but Spencer Nash, the executive director of the Delta Foundation, knew about it and told me that in some areas of the state, as well as the recent election for governor, it was in fact raised as an issue.  The Democratic candidate for Governor, Jim Hood, a four-term Attorney-General, had narrowly lost with 47.2% of the vote, but had indicated that if he won, he would ask for this clause to be amended.

In fact, twenty years ago it was a factor.  According to governing.com,

“When Ronnie Musgrove became the last Democratic governor of the state in 1999, he and his Republican opponent won an equal number of state House districts. Musgrove had carried the state by a plurality and the House installed him in office.  But back then, the House was still controlled by Democrats. Republicans now control 74 of the 122 Mississippi House seats. GOP House members aren’t going to install a Democratic governor who fails to carry the state outright.”

It all makes me think of the Nanci Griffin song, “Come on Up, Mississippi!”  The lyrics aren’t really available, but the point of the song is hard to missShe’s singing that it’s time for Mississippi to come on up to the standard that the rest of the states are at least pretending to maintain.  1890 is a long time ago.  It is indeed time for Mississippi to come on up!

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