Can the NFL be Fixed?

To set the mood, I want to start this post with a poignant portion of a time-aged classic.

I’ve done did a lot of s**t just to live this here lifestyle
We came straight from the bottom, to the top, my lifestyle
N***a livin’ life like volcano and this only the beginnin’
I’m on the top of the mountain, puffin’ on clouds and n***as still beginnin’
Million 5 on the Visa card
Hundred bands still look like the f**kin’ tires
N***a servin’ great white like I’m feedin’ sharks
I won’t do nothin’ with the b***h, she can’t even get me hard
Somethin’ wrong with the p***y
Even though I ain’t gon’ hit it, I’ma still make sure that she douche it
Me and my woadie, we don’t get caught up like that, no way
We ain’t got time to go see doctors, J
(Who said money?)
Hop up in my bed full of forty b***hes and yawnin’
Hey, this a show b***h you performin’
I do this s**t for my daughters and all my sons, b***h
I’m a run up them bands, I’ll take out their funds, b***h
I got a mom’s b***h, she got a mom’s b***h
I got sisters and brothers to feed
I ain’t goin’ out like no idiot, I’m a OG

-William Shakespeare, "Romeo and dat B***h"

-William Shakespeare, “Romeo and dat B***h”

Timeless, relevant, and lightly edited to add a little mystique.  Ok, it’s actually from the song Lifestyle by Rich Gang Featuring Young Thug & Rich Homie Quan, and it’s currently sitting (as of today) at #7 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Admittedly, this may seem at first glance like it has little to do with the current problems in the NFL, but I think it’s high time we grow some stones and connect the dots.  And, it needs to happen before the elephant in the room smothers us while claiming that we wouldn’t be smothered if we didn’t put our faces under its rear.

A.) SOME STATISTICS

After the Ray Rice incident, I was very interested in looking up arrest statistics when it came to professional sports. Curiosity didn’t add time to my days, unfortunately, but lo and behold someone just did the work for me.  Yay procrastination!

Vocativ posted a piece where it took all of the arrest records from January 2010 through September 2014, modified based upon the number of players in the sport, and put in terms of arrests per 100,000 people (which is the standard used in crime statistics) to form an annual arrest rate. The results were:

1.) NFL: 2,466 arrests/100,000 players
2.) NBA: 2,157 arrests/100,000 players
3.) MLB: 553 arrests/100,000 players
4.) NHL: 175 arrests/100,000 players

These are all professional athletes, many of them making a lot of money, so why such a difference in those arrest rates? Why are NBA players and NFL players 12x and 14x, respectively, more likely to get arrested than NHL players?

Where the Vocativ piece is enlightening on its own, it doesn’t go the next step and try to dig into why the numbers turn out the way they do. In fact, no one wants to touch it, and it’s mostly because they don’t want the elephant to squash them.

B.) IT’S RAC…NO, ACTUALLY, IT’S CULTURE

An ESPN analyst did try and dig into the problem a little bit. And by a little bit, I mean the typical demonization of men bit.

This is behavior that is happening at the grassroots level that is born through years of our culture like raising men to want to not be like women and using language like ‘sissy’ and ‘you throw like a girl’ that demean women. These are all contributing factors and I think if we want to hold the NFL’s feet to the fire over this issue, we shouldn’t be looking at the number of game suspensions because I don’t really think that’s going to change the problem. I think holding NFL’s feet to the fire should mean getting them to throw the kitchen sink at domestic violence, to invest millions of dollars in grassroots organizations in going into middle schools and high schools and colleges, and talking to young men about dealing with anger, about how they treat women.

That’s right, back to the default of men are inherently evil and are only good when they reign in their natural homicidal tendencies.  Never mind the fact that we don’t even know how to define what a man is anymore in today’s day and age.

Still, this is dancing around the elephant again.  It’s not men that are the problem, it is certain men.

Just look at the arrest statistics and those sports.  One factor that is running through them like…an elephant…is the cultural background of the players in those sports.  People are so afraid to point that out because of the racial makeup of the elephant, but just saying it’s about race is missing the point entirely.  It’s all about culture and has nothing to do with race other than said cultural issues disproportionately affecting certain people, but fear of the racist label keeps journalists from even approaching the subject.  So, they go back to the old tropes of men not being able to control their anger and any other excuse but the cultural background of the players.  I think it’s undeniable that the upbringing of your average hockey player is radically different from the upbringing of your average basketball or football player.  It’s also plain to see that it’s not that men are brought up in a way that demeans women, but there certainly is a culture out there that makes it a point to do so almost as a glorified matter of practice.

C.) BLAME IT ON RAP MUSIC?

Going back to my opening poetic reprinting of an engaging musical piece, I’m not pointing it out as a reason for current problems, but the lyrics are a readily apparent symptom of them as it reflects the culture from whence it came. Rap music doesn’t make someone a terrible person, but it certainly is one of many mirrors to what’s going on. I mean, who can’t read those lyrics to Lifestyle and not come to the conclusion that the speaker thinks highly of women and their place in his life?

As much as I’m not an expert on hip-hop or R&B music, I do know a surprisingly fair amount due to my brother’s love of gangster rap and very large sound systems. I can recite large swaths of Wu-Tang Clan lyrics at times. Often at times when it’s inappropriate.

Let me tell you all about the 36 Chambers.

Let me tell you all about the 36 Chambers.

There are plenty of rap songs that I found catchy back in the day, although they weren’t necessarily my style. However, even though the content was just as coarse as the modern equivalents at times, I remember the tone being different. There has been an evolution of sorts throughout the last few decades. It started out as a visceral, real-world look at the life that many of the artists grew up in and often times how it affects them today. Slowly but surely, though, it has morphed into something that people want to emulate, which is entirely different even though the content is similar. It’s like talking about how you watched your father beat your mother, then how you find yourself with the same issues, and ending with thinking it’s cool that you have those same issues.  Taking the horrors of inner city violence and struggles, then making them chic, has brought us to where we are today in terms of not only facing the reality of these problems, but actually glorifying it.

No, of course rap music isn’t the problem, but it sure is a bright light of insight. At night. Not trying to start a fight.

D.) A SAD STATE

I simply find so much to be sad about when looking at some of the lyrics to hip-hop songs, because it is such a reflection of the absolute destruction that has carved its way through America’s inner cities and its disproportionate toll on certain segments of America (yes, race). Then, on top of that, we relish it.  We can argue all day and night about the reasons, whether certain wounds are thrust upon them or are self-inflicted, and there are statistics everywhere to throw into the discussion, but the simple fact is that the NFL and NBA draw more of their players from these types of backgrounds than other sports.

So, what can you do about it? What can the NFL do to prevent more Ray Rice incidents in the future? Is it as simple as having assemblies in high school to teach men how to stop being Neanderthals? Unfortunately it is so much more difficult than that and requires us to take that long hard look at the elephant and finally address it. We need to rebuild the destroyed families. We need to stress the importance of being a father. We need to take a hard look at poverty and how we are part of the problem (and hopefully solution). We need to start calling a spade a spade and quit acting like the current state of our culture is just as relatively good as any other culture. We need to quit acting as if treating women like b***hes is some kind of relevant form of self-expression, and we need to stop being afraid of talking about it and being branded with the r-word.

That’s too hard though. Let’s just keep demonizing all men everywhere and make it sound like it’s an education problem. Addressing cultural issues is just too icky.  So, until we are ready to admit that there is a cultural problem, and we continue to pretend that it isn’t an issue, then we shouldn’t be surprised when the products of that culture reflects our lack of care back at us.

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