The NFL never ceases to oversaturate its brand. It has led to exposing the very issues within its league immensely. A complete book could be dedicated to this topic alone. In reference to the 2017 NFL season alone.

From a kneeling overtaking the attention of the nation to injuries habitually removing top-tier talent, it all fell at the expense of a disdained image. One that attempts to save itself in current situations from former mishaps and handlings of various issues. One that represents the ideas of 32 owners, but being publicly corrupted in total power from a single individual. Finally, one that has mistakenly produced an outspoken voice to athletes despite consequence.

The Players Response

Last Monday, the Cincinnati Bengals hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in a division-rival matchup that has a history of games that tend to become ugly. Knowing this beforehand, the refs needed to maintain control of this game early.

For the most part, they succeeded in this effort. Unfortunately, an early scary injury to middle linebacker Ryan Shazier would carry the emotions of the night. However, the usual controversy that erupts from these matchups ame on a crackback block by Pittsburgh wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster on Bengals middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

No one wants to see injuries happen. A legal block by Schuster warranted in a 15-yard penalty that soon led up to a 1-game ejection, Why?

Also, after seeing what Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots did to give Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White a concussion, why was it leveled at the same price Schuster had to pay? Now there is not a fine line into which punishment is disciplined, but the league is horrendous at this point. Just look:

How are the two the same? While some debate can take place on where Juju made contact, Gronkowski explicitly slammed into the back of White’s head after the play. Safety Mike Mitchell of the Pittsburgh Steelers sure had some words that could hold more value than what people think:

As the first portion takes on the idea of the rules defensive backs have to abide by nowadays, pay attention to what Mitchell details from 1:10 to the end.

“We have to get better when we sign the next CBA…”

In a league that has been dominated to suppress the thoughts of athletes due to a potential fine or suspension, 2017 has been different. Mitchell acknowledges this and continues to say “we have to get better in who is running the league, because obviously from fans, owners, and players, are all disappointed in Roger Goodell…We can’t have a guy who sets discipline on how you see fit, there has to be a set guideline of how we do, what we do”. A statement from every voice in the league.

Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Why has Goodell been described as this? Since taking over as commissioner of the league in 2006, ratings and revenue have increased exponentially, but at what price? Booing has become an annual tradition for NFL drafts as Goodell steps out, players such as Mitchell have expressed disappointment, and the two most powerful owners have gone on toe-to-toe with Goodell for perhaps the most controversial decisions in NFL history.

One, in particular, was the 6-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott. An investigation that took over a year, ended with the abuse of the CBA fully exposing itself. A joint agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA has led astray into what the players union believed it would have been used for.

Without having to give an explanation of how punishment is determined, Goodell does as he pleases. It has affected players lives enabling false titles to be attached to their identity.

It is a disgrace to what the NFL portrays to be, and in reality became an organization among Goodell and the owners. A plea to attempt to make up for mistakes in the past.

Taking Jerry Jones for example. As scrutiny surrounded his comments of his players having to stand for the national anthem, he was found taking a knee with the team soon after:

Dallas Cowboys via Twitter

How honest are their actions? Do they really care about the players? Currently under investigation, the Houston Texans sent quarterback Tom Savage back on the field minutes later after what seemed him to be having a seizure.

It is all a mirror image of the man in charge. Just recently in 2016, NFL executive vice president, Jeff Miller, finally admitted that there is a link between CTE and concussions in the NFL. After fighting for years, and fans desperately asking when, some changes were made. Goodell eased on enforcing penalties on post-touchdown celebrations at the start of this season.

The Shield Can Be Broken

As many see it as a turning point in the league that is heading for its own demise, more needs to be done. It can be fixed. Players across the league have become more transcendent in the national spotlight, controlling a narrative that many viewed them as just an entertainment source.

They are human beings that deserve to be seen as such. Especially in an environment that reaches so many people. They have taken steps forward, and the NFL lockout of 2020 could be historic into what happens next.