I have decided to stop watching NFL football this year. As most all of you know, I am a huge Baltimore Ravens fan, even going so far as to start this group. I have loved this group and the friends I have made have changed my life. Football was also a major part of my world for the past year when I was working on the NFL Experience Times Square. Football has allowed me to make friends when I’m in new places, it gives me something to talk about on any job site I’m on and break barriers down with new crews and it has brought me a huge amount of joy (and a bit of pain… it’s still the Ravens) in the last 22 years. So it is with great sadness that I have decided that I can no longer support this organization.
The NFL is a complex organization, made up of a wide range of people. From the aspiring football stars and underdog kids who make it out of bad situations to forever change their lives because of their phenomenal drive and hard work, to the billionaire owners who run the majority of the teams, to the thousands of people that work for individual teams and the main office itself doing regular every day jobs, but for an organization that they love. For so many of these people, not just the players, the NFL is the dream job. It is an organization that so many love and that people in all sorts of industries dream of working in.
It is also an organization that has millions of fans around the world and those fans come from every race, religion, economic background, gender, sexual orientation, culture, etc. These fans, like me, and so many others, love this sport. It brings people together, it unites so many in a common love of a game that is bigger than all of us are individually. It has changed my life, and that may seem like an exaggeration, but I can tell you that I would not be where I was today if not for football. I would not have quit my job and started my company if not for the Ravens winning their second Super Bowl. I would not have some of my best friends in the world without my Ravens group. I would not have been as qualified for my role on the NFL experience without my football knowledge. I would not have found a common language to speak with so many people over the years without this game which I love so much. I would not be who I am without football.
Yet through all of the NFL’s greatness, there is a lot of ugliness too. The NFL spent many years actively hiding the horrific results of brain damage from their players and fans, to the cost of who knows how many lives. The NFL has not only supported, but intentionally recruited players who are known domestic abusers with violent personalities. They have welcomed people who have done such horrifically cruel acts to people and animals alike, that I am honestly embarrassed that it took me this long to step away. But through all of the awfulness, I could sort of justify it, because the league and the teams always had this attitude about separating the players from what happened off the field. That was at least the case until the day they decided to make a vast sweeping decision to punish players for silently protesting and using their voices to speak out for the people who don’t have a voice. To use their power and influence to show the millions of kids watching why they deserve to be the role models that they became by signing those contracts. And it isn’t just that the NFL decided to make a rule about this… it’s that it’s the only rule of it’s kind. They have never said that any player who is caught beating his wife or girlfriend will be automatically suspended for a game, they just wait to see if a video comes out and then they fire the individual. They have never decreed that anyone who intentionally has an especially violent hit to the head will be fined a standard $25,000 per hit. They have never said that players who are charged with raping repeatedly should stay in the locker room out of site of everyone until the National Anthem has concluded. They don’t care about how offensive the Redskins name is and they barely punished anyone for the Saints bounty scandal, they only fired Ray Rice after the video was published, but the fact that they had known about it for months didn’t matter. They welcomed Michael Vick back with open arms after he beat dogs to death with his bare hands… and none of that was worthy of a sweeping NFL ruling. They decided that young black men who were silently protesting the murder of men that look just like them was the one thing that they would put their foot down on. Of all the controversies and issues over the years… this was the one topic that they chose to rule on.
And of that reason, I am walking away from a sport I love so very much, and that has given me so much, even as just a fan. I have decided to stand with those men who are now, no longer able to take a knee for fear of losing their shot. This is why I will no longer be watching football.