How corruption, physical injuries, and a culture of toxic masculinity ruined America’s favorite sport
Around 114.4 million people sat down in their homes, offices, and bars last year to watch the Super Bowl. Whether one is an ardent fan or a first time viewer, football is a powerful force which brings like-minded people together.
This is not an argument against professional football, although there are numerous issues in professional sports as well. This article is about what happens before professional football, when college kids are drowned in a hyper-masculine culture that ignores repeated injuries and is played for the profit of extremely rich (predominantly white) old men.
Revenue from college football is frequently in the range of millions of dollars, but where does this money go? According to The Washington Post, “Many [academic] departments also are losing more money than ever, as athletic directors choose to outspend rising income to compete in an arms race that is costing many of the nation’s largest publicly funded universities and students millions of dollars.”
“Rich departments such as Auburn (a college in Florida) have built lavish facilities, invented dozens of new administrative positions and bought new jets, while poorer departments such as Rutgers have taken millions in mandatory fees from students and siphoned money away from academic budgets to try to keep up.”
Instead of becoming an extension of college culture, the sport is now just another medium for advertisers from corporations like AT&T, Aflac, Chevy, and others to target an audience of predominantly American males that cannot be reached through other programming.
While colleges are supposed to give the revenue acquired from the games and the advertisements back to the school, sometimes, athletes will receive illegal personal benefits, such as limousines and cars, free airfare, and cash. Many schools spend more on college football than they are actually making.
While some athletes are paid, most are not. Instead of receiving the free education guaranteed by their scholarships as long as they played sports, colleges and the NCAA are benefiting off of young athletes who do not receive a legitimate education, and are instead playing for corporations. Instead of student-athletes, they effectively become a cash cow for the school that they attend and are not encouraged to focus on their studies. Instead, they take bogus classes to fulfill their requirements. They do not have the opportunity to develop actual marketable skills if they choose not to become professional players.
College sports also obviously hurt athletes through actual physical injuries. Concussions continue to happen and because there are so few safety precautions in college football (being a profit driven enterprise, there is little concern for the mental health of players as they can always be replaced). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), caused by repeated brain trauma, is especially prevalent among football players, particularly in college football.
Repeated concussions causes severe headaches, depression, and can lead to erratic and dangerous behavior. Many coaches still do not take concussions seriously, and often athletes will continue playing even after they have experienced a concussion. Painkiller addiction has also become apparent in college football.
Football is a sport that is viewed by society as traditionally masculine, the violent and aggressive contact sport is often viewed as the epitome of “manliness.” Players are rewarded for this type of behavior on the field, but what happens when they carry this ideology with them on campus where they are treated as heroes, receive special perks, and are celebrated at frat parties?
Research by economic researchers Jason Lindo, Peter Siminski and Isaac Swensen shows that reports of rape and sexual assault increase during game weeks. Players have influence at their schools and can abuse their privilege to coerce others into non consensual situations and receive very few consequences for it.
A well known example is Jameis Winston, a football player at Florida State University who claimed that he had consensual sex with another student, when in actuality there was overwhelming physical evidence, as well as her own personal statement, that proved otherwise. Two other students who witnessed the assault and were not football players, Chris Casher and Ronald Darby, were charged with violations of the university’s code of conduct for “conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for another person.” Meanwhile, Winston received a slap on the wrist.
Besides the rise of rape and sexual assaults on college campuses as a result of football culture, the very nature of football today pits a majority young black men against each other (who receive next to nothing and are not paid ) while older, wealthy mostly white men are gleaning all the profits. Demographic studies in college football show that while more African American men are playing football than ever, the coaches, the executives, and the administrators receive the money and do not suffer the consequences.
In short, college football needs to be regulated more thoroughly, if not abolished all together. The percentage of those who becoming professional players is so low that there is no real long-term benefit for most players — except, perhaps, the love of the game, which is almost altogether stolen from them when they have to practice insane hours, fly to different states, and have little time to do much else.
Clearly profits are the only thing that keep college football afloat, and we need to start thinking more about the health of these young men and their peers than how much a school’s profit margins rise.