The NFL is one of the most popular, most successful enterprises in the world. But sometimes, it seems that the league cannot get out of its own way.
From the lockout to Deflategate, from Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson, from Colin Kaepernick’s free agency to Ezekiel Elliott’s domestic-violence saga, it seems there is always an off-field battle between the NFL and the NFLPA – or the NFL’s players and fans.
When is the tipping point? When will a segment of fans throw up their hands, say they’ve had enough, and simply stop watching and caring about the NFL?
“I lived through the lockout that happened, and that was pretty messy,” former NFL linebacker A.J. Hawk said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “The years leading up to the lockout, we knew it was coming. They tried to teach guys how to prepare for it, what to expect, and obviously the players did not handle it well. You heard all the stories of guys taking out loans at 40 percent interest rates at a time when you normally are not even getting paid in the offseason other than your weekly stipend and everyone kind of gets the same amount.
“I think this is a battle that we’re always going to see with the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association,” Hawk continued. “It seems almost like a new boundary that was crossed to where the PA is putting out statements against the NFL, and the NFL is saying, ‘Don’t listen to what the PA is talking about, shaming the accuser.’ So it’s getting pretty nasty. I wonder what the tipping point is for some fans on how long they will kind of put him with this in-fighting.”
Elliott will appeal his six-game suspension, as he and the NFLPA will attempt to discredit his domestic-violence accuser. DA, for what it’s worth, typically sides with the NFLPA against the NFL, but he questions whether the PA should attempt to discredit a potential victim.
“It looks like tactics that are taken when you watch court cases happen on TV or a movie maybe or House of Cards, where you try to discredit people,” Hawk said. “I don’t know how far the NFLPA has gone with that. It’s like every day something new is coming up.”
Still, the NFL is so popular that it can almost do no wrong – or at least do nothing to lose viewers.
“Football is such a huge sport,” Hawk acknowledged. “I think the owners are smart enough and they understand – I don’t know what it would take. I don’t know what kind of catastrophic event would have to happen for even a small majority of people to turn off the NFL and to stop watching. They aired the NFL Combine for a week-and-a-half on NFL Network, and it gets huge ratings – and honestly, it’s one of the most boring things to ever be a part of or watch. You’re watching guys stretch and run 40-yard dashes and then take 20 minutes in between each thing. So there’s nothing happening, but people are so hungry for football because it’s such a huge sport and it’s so fun to watch that I don’t see anything really making a dent in ratings when it comes to football. Whenever football season ends, everyone is just looking for the next thing: When does free agency hit? When’s the draft? When does my team hit the field for mini-camp? All of these things, it adds up. And the owners know how much power they have.”