Football is America’s version of sportswashing

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The sizzle of the grill, the smell of the pizza, the crack of the beer can, and the sound of brass bursting through the speakers, are all signs that football season has arrived. While activity and news from the sport are followed year-round, nothing replaces a week of real game action.

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Football season spurs America off of the lazy river of summer and into a laborious autumn. As we all sink our teeth back into our regular work grind, it is worth noting that most of us are being exploited. That exploitation is part of why we Americans hold our five months of football weekends so dear. We toil away all week and then watch people hurl themselves into each other who have decent paychecks, but low job security.

The Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia is accused of sportswashing, with its embarrassment of riches, by using that fund in golf, European soccer, and elsewhere. American football is so insidious that while it may divert peoples’ attention away from the atrocities of our own country, it is even better at getting the public to look past its own problems.

Without getting into the oppression Olympics, it is clear that Saudi Arabia does not consider human rights a priority. Women there are basically subject to the whims of men. This is a country that also executed 81 prisoners in one day on Mar. 12, 2022, and 196 in total that year. All of those people were certainly not mass murderers. As for border security, according to the Human Rights Watch, a minimum of 655 migrants were killed there from March 2022 to June 2023.

By comparison violence against women in America is supposed to be against the law — both sexual and physical — but even with the legal deterrents, nearly 1,700 women were murdered by a domestic partner in 2021, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And stories of domestic violence by NFL players are still all too common. In addition, America’s executions rates are rising with 18 prisoners put to death in 2022, compared to 11 in 2021. However, lethal injection is not the way only people are being put to death by the State when according to Washington Post data, 1,096 Americans were shot and killed by police officers in 2022. Every single one of those people was denied their constitutional right to a jury trial.

Divide the American police killings and Saudi executions by their respective estimated total populations, and the results will be uncomfortable. Also, the Mexico to the United States land route is considered the deadliest land route in the world for migrants, and Texas has recently put saws in the Rio Grande River border.

The NFL quashes dissent, too

Jim Trotter, a Black journalist who worked for the NFL Network, has filed a lawsuit against the league. A renowned journalist for several decades, he was informed by NFL Media that his contract would not be renewed during the spring of 2023. The lawsuit alleges that in November 2022, he was assured that he would be retained.

He was fired when he pressed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about diversity issues, specifically in the league office. According to the lawsuit, Trotter noticed that there were no Black people in senior management in the NFL’s newsroom, nor on the news desk. His observations were confirmed multiple times by management.

He broached the subject during Goodell’s “State of the League Address” prior to the Super Bowl in 2022 and 2023. Even if the NFL doesn’t want media members that it employs portraying the league in a negative light, Trotter questioned the face of the league as one of its employees about hiring practices in the department he worked in every day. In 2023, a month and change after addressing how no progress had been made in a year, Trotter was gone.

Put aside the viral salacious allegations of comments made by franchise owners Jerry Jones and Terry Pegula about how Black people can go somewhere else if they’re unhappy in the NFL. (Pegula has denied those allegations.) Trotter made reasonable criticisms about how more Black people need to be working on the news desk for an NFL that has 60-70 percent Black players, and he was shown the door.

The NFL wanted to make progress on its own terms, and did not care for a Black person desiring for the league to do better. Resistance to a Black person wanting a race issue to be treated with urgency is an act as American as apple pie.

Using up Black bodies and offering them non-guaranteed contracts and healthcare for a maximum of five years after the end of their careers is business as usual in America. In this majority Black sport, the brains of 376 former players have been studied and 345 were found to have CTE.

And the lowering of the revenue split from 50-50 to a maximum of 52-48 in favor of league ownership, the billionaires stretched the 2011 lockout into training camp to get that win. They know that player income levels are too disparate for them to stay united through an extended work stoppage.

Now, three years after Goodell admitted that the league approached Colin Kaepernick’s police brutality protests incorrectly — a protest that was thrust into the spotlight in 2016 because of a question from a Black journalist employed by the NFL — a veteran, and distinguished, Black journalist who was formerly employed by NFL media is suing the league for discrimination.

All of this while Black Americans are still being shot and killed by police officers at more than double the rate of all other ethnic groups, per Washington Post data.

The distraction never ends

In America, the No. 1 killer of children in both 2020 and 2021 was gun violence. Half of all kids who lost their lives to gun violence were Black. Among adults, firearm fatalities have reached a 28-year high. Black men met their end to gun-related homicide at a far greater rate than any other ethnic group.

All of this violence, and as a nation, America still has loose laws governing the sale of firearms with high-capacity magazines, and an underfunded ATF is not able to properly keep track of guns getting from the store and into the hands of unlicensed users.

America’s solution to this problem — especially in state governments — is to continue to fight against stronger gun legislation. Then to thwart the bad guys with guns, cities regardless of political leaning continue to swell police budgets. An action that will rarely lose an election, but does not focus on the societal ills that actually cause crime. Ills that disproportionately affect Black people such as the price of housing, inequality in the distribution of wealth, and food insecurity. Even with similar educational backgrounds, Black people earn an average of 20 percent less in wages than white people.

A crisis that is costing America potential football stars, and yet, largely no governmental action is taken outside of increasing the chances of an employee of the state killing a Black person.

Oh football, the great American unifier. A tailgate, a high-school stadium, a sports bar — these are a few places where Americans all over the political and reality spectrum will fellowship. A sport we can all partake in while it devours its participants, the way that our country devours us.

We all know that we’re getting beaten up. The difference is who do we believe is kicking us while we are down. Football serves as a mating call for Americans to, once a week for five months, break away from our collective troubles. Eat and drink your fill, for tomorrow comes labor.

Those fleeting moments not only temporarily wash away the sight of America’s most fully saturated crimson stain from the viewers, but also football itself. Using Black bodies to build, and becoming frustrated when they vocalize discomfort has been the American way for a long time.

These days football does it better than anyone else, and throws one helluva party in the process. A party that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so those of us who care about deadly injustices that befall people who look like most of the players on an NFL football field, we might as well swing by for a few hours. If nothing else, the weekend respites may be just what we need to keep the party from washing away our sensitivity to the truth.

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