The NFL Is Terrible And We Keep Watching It

From Helmetgate to Jay-Z.
A screenshot from Madden 20, two football players, one running with the ball pushing past another who is falling over
Image courtesy of EA

It's Madden season! Which means it's time for Patrick, Rob, and Austin to confront pro football and all its ugly contradictions and compromises.

First, they're as shocked as anyone by the "in his prime" retirement of star quarterback Andrew Luck. But should they be? What does Luck's decision reveal about changing attitudes among football players toward the game they play? There's a class element to it, as well, but that's even more salient with the crass partnership between Jay-Z and the NFL. The gang discuss how Jay-Z has helped the league "move on" from its embarrassing standoff with allegedly blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and why it's a move that makes all the sense in the world for billionaire like Jay-Z. Making somewhat less sense is the long fight Antonio Brown waged on behalf of a beloved helmet. How important are helmets really to keeping players safe? Finally, Rob and Patrick spent the summer mesmerized by the Chicago Bears' unprecedented search for a new place-kicker. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.


Rob: If you look at the history of NFL owners a lot of these guys were dirtbags even by the standards of rich plutocrats. NFL team ownership is a weirdly self-selecting crew of shit-heads. And that is definitely part of the League's history. So Stephen Ross kind of tried to pretend that he was different, but in terms of what is in his class interest, electing Donald Trump is in his class interest. He may genuinely not much like the man or some of his politics, but my god he likes the pocketbook issues for billionaires. And so he's going to work to ensure this guy is reelected and continues to structure the economy in ways that benefit people like Stephen Ross.

The other thing that's interesting about Stephen Ross is that his money comes from a lot of boutique-y operations like Equinox gyms for instance is one of his businesses. And a lot of the people who frequent those would regard themselves as liberal progressives right? There are no equinoxes in like Suburban America for the most part.

The Equinox gym is sort of a feature of a heavily gentrified upscale urban community, and so it began to cause problems with his business because many of its customers were starting to realize like "wait, you're telling me my gym membership is kind of bankrolling a major Trump fundraiser and supporter?" And that is an awkward tension. Additionally to this there was I forget who, there was a player on the Dolphins was calling attention to this.


Patrick: Jeremy Stills. Am I pulling that out of my ass?

Austin: Kenny. Kenny Stills. Who specifically said you can't play both sides of this.

Rob: Right and Steven Ross and Jay-Z were like "oh contraire."

Austin: This is America friend!

Patrick: You also read about what the coach did, right? With the music?

Austin: No, I missed.

Rob: Oh yeah. Go for it.

Patrick: The Kenny Stills criticism of the owner went on for a bit. And then at some point the last two weeks during a practice, the relatively new coach of the Dolphins this year played six Jay-Z songs in a row during the practice. At which a bunch of reporters had questions afterwards like "Was this, like, you know, did someone hit repeat on the iPhone? What what happened here?" The Dolphins didn't have an answer, and then finally the coach came out was like "Yeah I was just trying to trying to motivate them."

Rob: Unfortunately it was reasonable doubt and it was just the most weirdly listless and like thoughtful reflective practice in ages.

Austin: God. There's actually another angle to this and I think we we kind of specifically moved pass quickly that is small and personal. Jay didn't check-in with Kap about this right? Per Kap's girlfriend, I believe girlfriend, Jay-Z talked to him later. The conversation, through a source, was not good. Here's exact quote from the Jemele Hill piece, "Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab, wrote on Twitter that Kaepernick didn’t speak with Jay-Z before he brokered his deal with the NFL. Jay-Z said yesterday that he spoke to Kaepernick on Monday, but he wouldn’t divulge how their conversation went. A source close to Kaepernick, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, told me, “It was not a good conversation.”"


PatricK: Also when he was asked about, like he did this Q&A with Rodger Goodell, Jay-Z got a couple of fairly hostile questions, because even a public audience that was like around for this shitty announcement was like "uh what?" And someone asked you know "how you reflect on this whole kneeling thing that's been such an issue for the last couple of years?" and he said "I think we've moved past kneeling. I think it's time for action."

Austin [impersonating Jay-Z]: "I think it's time for action. Ha ha ha. I'm Jay-Z."


Austin: God, fuck off Jay.

Patrick: Because that answer is so bad!

Austin: The the irony for me as a hip hop fan is that the last time Jay-Z tried to co-opt something else from someone else without getting permission from them, it caused Nas to write "Ether." To me the way you show that commitment to idea that you're still working together in spirit towards some end, even when you are signing a deal with the devil, is that you go and you talk to the people involved and get their blessing. Or at least try to explain yourself before you make the decision.

If Jay really did conceptualize this as part two in Kaepernick's action, for me that has to begin with a conversation with Kap, maybe you don't get the sign off, but you start there and you go "listen, this thing came across my desk. This thing is exciting to me because yes, it's going to make me a lot of money, but also because I am going to be able to influence them in their offices with deals. I'm gonna be able to pay a bunch of black artist. I gonna do this, this, and this."


And when you do that then I can conceptualize it as [Jay-Z] at least conceptualizing it as the follow-through to what Kaepernick started, but that isn't what happened here. We know this didn't begin with Jay and Kap being like "all right, what's next, what's step two," or even him going like "bless me Father for I have sinned." It is just him going forward on this thing and asking for forgiveness later, and I guess that's just never going to sit right with me.

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