National Football League, National Flag League, or National Female League?

Ray Lewis tackling Jeremi Johnson
Ray Lewis tackling Jeremi Johnson

With the current standing of support for the National Football League and the need for change, for better or for worse, in the sport, is the NFL witnessing a complete overhaul? As the NFL’s competition committee continues to change rules trying to make the game safer and females continue to prove the world they are ready to “tackle” football in their next step towards equality, alterations for “Roger Goodell’s house” might be underway. In addition, how would great philosophers and theorists like Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacque Rousseau feel about this? In the footsteps of President Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign slogan, “change” is on its way to the NFL and the entirety of American’s “new” pastime.

Kickoffs in the NFL
Kickoffs in the NFL

In Marc Tracy’s article about NFL Rules Changes, he notes about very important aspects of football that might be eliminated, notably kickoffs. First changing the kickoff from the 30 yard line to 35 yard line, the NFL effectively diminished the likelihood of one of the most exciting plays for the elimination of one of the most brutal parts of the game. Hoping to reduce the speed of collisions, the NFL caused many return specialists to no longer take the risk for the chance of a spectacular touchdown and instead opt for the expected touchback. Second outlawing helmet-to-helmet hits, the NFL brought about complaints from players and fans alike in order to prevent concussions. Banning runningbacks from lowering their helmets, removing tackling during practice camps, striping the Pro-Bowl of the kickoff, and flagging excessively whenever the game became too “aggressive,” the NFL has shown they want change. Is football still football? Are we headed to a two-hand tackle game? With the current rule changes and excessive penalties I see every Sunday, it sure looks like it.

Sam Gordon, an 11 year-old football player
Sam Gordon, an 11 year-old football player

Other than player safety and saving money from concussion law-suits, the NFL and football in general has hit lots of criticism for its inherent sexism. This week, all of America and also the whole Twitter-verse was in shock watching young Sam Gordon make her triumphant return to football once again. As an 11 year-old year-old girl catching touchdown passes and runs right past her male counterparts, the world stood in awe at the greatness from this “football player.” Getting tackled and hit, she got right back up and broke some “ankles” juking the opposing teams and scored points. Just like Shelby Osborn, “college football’s first female defensive back”, Sam Gordon and other female football players give strength and inspiration to other females interested in football. Maybe as a kicker or even as a quarterback, females in the NFL might be an reality, or maybe the creation of a WNFL, just like the WNBA, might spur interest for more females to join in on the touchdowns, interceptions, and field goals.

Personally, football and the NFL have been a part of my life since I can walk. As a Jets fan, watching Brad Smith, an elite kick returner, score touchdowns changing the entire morale of the game made Sundays not only interesting, but also inspirational. However, the NFL’s new change are understandable with player safety and life after football for players. Even though, football is not the football from before, I continue to watch every Sunday until February for the love of the game.

Colt McCoy taken out of the game due to injury
Colt McCoy taken out of the game due to injury

Just like Hobbes’s social contract theory, the players and the NFL will do whats in their best interests. Football is “nasty, brutish, and short.” Self-protection and self-preservation for the NFL to avoid pain and misery, these new rules and contracts fall straight into Hobbes’s point of view. Players enforced by the sovereign (NFL) live in constant fear of safety, security, and order, and this absolute sovereign aka Roger Goodell makes the rules (rights) to bring morality and directive to football (or whatever this new-type of football is called).

Living with a three varsity sport sister in high school, I was very accustomed to females and sports. My sister played every sport offered for females (soccer, lacrosse, softball, tennis, and even volleyball). However, she never played football competitively due to this one restriction of gender.

Powderpuff Football game
Powderpuff Football game

I still remember watching my sister play football for our high-school’s annual powder-puff game. A game where the guys and girls switch roles (girls play football/guys cheerlead on the sidelines) to bring awareness to a cause (usually breast-cancer awareness). She played quarterback and completely shocked the crowd when she threw a 60 yard touchdown pass to her best-friend for the win. It was not only a win for her team. It was a win for females in sports, a win for feminism. Just like Rousseau’s social contract, guaranteeing equality for the “general will.” Just like Sam Gordon, Shelby Osborn, and my sister, Rousseau favored equality and people’s sovereignty in government and in sports.

In all, the NFL and football in ready for change. For equality, for safety, and for progress, football is changing.

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3 thoughts on “National Football League, National Flag League, or National Female League?

  1. While I believe that these rule changes made in the NFL and for all youth football leagues in general are designed to keep the players safe, I believe that it is a hard thing to do and I am not sure if this is the best way to go about it. From my experience of playing high school football, the kids who were better players and ultimately went on to play division one football were always the most violent kids who hit the hardest and lead with their heads. Thus the people who make it into the NFL are the ones who hit extremely hard and always hit with their helmet. To change the rules to make these players change something they have had successes with for their whole life cannot be changed by a few rules. I do not think that we will see a real change in the violence and helmet to helmet hits until the younger generation who has grown up with these rule changes makes it to the NFL.

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  2. I found your article to be very interesting about the changing environment of the NFL safety. I think you make a very good point about players fearing for their safety in the natural state and having an interest in self-preservation. There is much reason to live in constant fear and danger of being hurt and of order being kept. I do however dispute your point about the NFL being a sovereign power.

    It is a very significant and major claim to make that the NFL is a sovereign power. I think it is definitely clear that the NFL and especially Roger Godell hold a lot of power and at times it is questioned that they have too much paper. However I think it is important to point out the role of the NFL Players Association. They represent the players in the league and their best interest. On the NFL Players Association it lists one of the roles of the association as, “Represents all players in matters concerning wages, hours and working conditions and protects their rights as professional football players.” The key is working conditions and protection of rights. The players in the CBA and in negotiations with the league work to protect the players. These working conditions include their safety and the rules governing their safety. It is a discussion and agreement that the players have with the NFL. Furthermore, when a penalty is given out for an individual hitting a certain player with a head on collision or in some manner that is against the rules often the NFLPA disputes that. They challenge it and don’t always accept what the NFL deems as fair punishment or if it is even against the rules. There is more of a two-way street that is not fully what exists in Hobbes’ theory of government. The NFL does not act as a complete sovereign power and the people (the players) do not accept simply what it is that the sovereign deems best fit to keep order and safety. The NFLPA is a body that helps prevent the NFL from acting as a complete sovereign power.

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  3. There will always be debates about the way certain organizations or leagues are run. I found this post very interesting because the NBAPA, which I am more familiar with, deals with some similar issues.

    The NFL has recently passed the penalty for hitting another player helmet to helmet. As someone who sustained a traumatic brain injury, I am pleased the the NFL has made an effort to ensure the safety of its players. A head injury takes years to recover from and I think more rules like this should be passed in the future.

    The NFLPA acts in the best interest of the players so it should have the most power.

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