Roger Goodell and the NFL have obviously been forced to deal with one scandal after another over the course of the last few years. From the Deflategate scandal that dragged on for almost two years before Tom Brady was finally forced to serve a four-game suspension at the beginning of last season, to all of the various domestic violence scandals that have proven, time and time again, that the NFL has no effing idea what it’s doing when it comes to disciplining players who mistreat women, it seems not a week goes by that there isn’t some kind of negative NFL story in the news.
In fairness to the NFL, there are almost 1,700 players in the league—not including guys on practice squads—in addition to hundreds of coaches, so odds are that someone in the league is going to get into some kind of trouble on an almost weekly basis. But still, it’s pretty much gotten to the point where it feels surprising when the NFL isn’t at the center of a big controversy for more than a few days. And even though we’re only about a month into the current season, it really feels like the NFL is trying to outdo itself in the scandal department this year.
The year didn’t exactly get off to a great start for the NFL as the summer was filled with bad press for the league. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was handed a six-game suspension following a domestic violence incident he was allegedly involved in back in 2016 (he subsequently appealed that suspension and has been allowed to continue playing—for now). A report also emerged this summer indicating that CTE has been found in 99 percent of the brains that former NFL players have donated to science, and that report came just days before one NFL player called the football field the "perfect place to die."
And don’t even get us started on how Colin Kaepernick didn’t receive a single training camp invite this summer, despite spending the majority of last season as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. Are you really telling us Kaepernick wouldn’t have been able to compete with?
But what seems to be setting this season apart from past seasons is that, even though the regular season is here now, the scandals just haven’t stopped for the NFL. We’re five games into it, and you could argue that the league has already managed to endure an entire season’s worth of scandals in a little more than a month—some as a result of its own doing and some as a result of external forces. Just take a look at everything that has gone down since the Patriots and Chiefs kicked things off back in early September:
Sept. 8: Ezekiel Elliott receives an injunction from a federal court, effectively delaying his six-game domestic violence suspension and casting doubt on the NFL’s original decision to suspend him.
Sept. 21: Aaron Hernandez’s brain diagnosed with "most severe case" of CTE ever for a player his age.
Sept. 22: Donald Trump tells NFL owners to fire any NFL player who protests during the national anthem.
Sept. 27: NFL fans burn their season tickets over national anthem protests.
Oct. 4: Cam Newton laughs at a reporter’s question and says it’s "funny to hear a female talk about routes."
Oct. 9: Dolphins coach resigns after a video surfaces that shows him snorting lines of cocaine.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s not that shocking to see the NFL dealing with so much drama on a day in, day out basis, given the constant attention the league receives. It’s also not that shocking to see the NFL dealing with some serious issues during the season. If you remember, the disturbing video of Ray Rice punching his fiancée in an elevator surfaced back on Sept. 8, 2014, just one day after the NFL’s opening weekend, and it dominated the headlines that season.
But it’s starting to feel like the scandals plaguing the NFL this season are happening at an unprecedented pace. Every time one starts to die down, another pops up and takes its place. And then that one starts to go away and another one appears. And while some people might argue that all press is good press and that the NFL is continuing to build its brand by keeping its name in the news by any means necessary, it’s sort of hard to believe that the league is in this place, where we’re all spending our Monday watching an NFL coach snort cocaine off a desk while the scores from the previous Sunday’s games scroll across the bottom of the screen.
And to think, we still have more than half the regular season left. At this rate, all we can ask is: WTF is possibly going to happen next—and how much more of this are we going to have to endure?