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Exposing the NFL's Dark Secrets

Entertainment

Fri, March 01

Rigged. Drugs. Violence.

American football has long been the most popular sport in America, with an average of just under 70,000 fans attending every game. Some teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, average nearly 100,000 attendances per game, showcasing football's sheer popularity and cultural influence in America. The National Football League, more widely known as the NFL, is the largest and most prominent football league in the world, consisting of 32 teams and nearly 1600 players.

Their most famous players include Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady. The LVIII Super Bowl, the final battle for the NFL Championship, is the most-watched program ever, with 123.4 million viewers in 2024, breaking the previous record last year of 115 million.

However, as with any popular sport, the NFL is criticized by many and pervaded by dark secrets. Conspiracy theorists provide plenty of evidence of the Super Bowl being scripted. Dozens of NFL players have been charged with everything from domestic abuse to murder.

Hundreds of players have been suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs and other related substances. What hides behind the closed doors of American football?

Image Credit: All-Pro Reels from Wikimedia Commons

The Scripted Super Bowl

The Kansas City Chiefs won again, winning back-to-back championships. The Chiefs pushed overtime against the San Francisco 49ers and beat them. Regular NFL fans could blame it on Patrick Mahomes' magical abilities or Andy Reid's experience and genius coaching.

However, many fans find the scapegoat in perhaps America's most popular celebrity of 2024 – Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift, who is dating the Chief's current tight end, Travis Kelce.

The Taylor Swift conspiracy stated that the Super Bowl was scripted in favor of the Chiefs with the intention of Taylor Swift giving a speech to endorse Joe Biden. Republican Vivek Ramaswamy teased the possibility in a tweet several months ago, hinting at Super Bowl outcomes. After the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, President Biden tweeted jokingly: “Just like we drew it up.”

However, as the claims could not be further backed up by robust evidence, the Taylor Swift controversy fell flat, as with most other attacks on the possibility of a scripted Super Bowl. Hitherto, the script has remained a victim of angry fans. Are their claims accurate? Most likely not. But maybe, just maybe…

Image Credit: All-Pro Reels from Wikimedia Commons

Violence

From domestic abuse to homicide, dozens of NFL players hold lengthy criminal records, the most famous of which is Aaron Hernandez. Though never winning an NFL championship, Hernandez played for the New England Patriots and broke several touchdown records with his duo, Rob Gronkowski. In 2013, Hernandez was arrested by police and charged with the murder of his fiance's sister's boyfriend, Odin Lloyd. While in his jail cell, Hernandez was found dead, the cause of death determined to be suicide.

Dozens of other players such as O.J. Simpson, Eric Naposki, and Darrell Russell were brought to court for homicide. According to a CNS analysis, between the years 2000 and 2014, just under 7% of NFL players were arrested for criminal activities. Although basketball leads the nation in sports with players with the most arrests (with football being second), the NFL leads the nation in major crimes committed (42).

Image Credit: Keith Allison from Wikimedia Commons

Brain Damage

Over the past decade, several other statistics were released that cast a shadow on the American football industry: brain damage. In a 2023 report by the Boston University CTE center, it was found that 345 out of 376 deceased NFL players (an astonishing 91%) had CTE, which is a brain disease that results from multiple concussions and traumatic brain injuries. And, although lower than several decades ago, the total number of concussions suffered by players in preseason and regular season practices and games is two hundred and nineteen.

According to an NYU report, CTE can cause “depression, loss of judgment, inability to control impulse, rages, and memory loss, and can ultimately result in dementia.” CTE was also found in Aaron Hernandez's brain during autopsy and could have been a major factor in the murder he'd committed. Brain damage and other related injuries are appallingly common in the American football industry.

Image Credit: All-Pro Reels from Wikimedia Commons

Drugs

The use of drugs and other performance-enhancing substances is a growing problem in today's NFL games. The drugs most popular among players include Adderall, opioids, and anabolic steroids. The NFL began testing for steroids and other related drugs in the 1980s, but to little or no avail, as an estimated 50% of all NFL players in the 2000s were taking “some form of pharmaceutical drug to enhance their performance.”

The NFL has employed several methods of attempting to stop drug-taking, including a ‘testing’ season, in which players must take a drug test within four hours of being notified. “Fines for some NFL teams have reached millions of dollars”, a report by the Adelante Recovery Center states, “which impact player salaries and result in negative press coverage for teams.” However, because not all tests detect all drugs and some teams are negligent in reinforcing test-taking, drug use continues. Since 2001, over 250 NFL players have been suspended for taking prohibited drugs, with Jimmy Garoppolo from the Raiders being suspended 2 games for violating the PED policy on February 7th, 2024.

Image Credit: All-Pro Reels from Wikimedia Commons

Is the Super Bowl rigged? Probably not. The script remains a worthy scapegoat for fans and thousands of videos circulating the internet reinforce this conspiracy.

But, without irrefutable evidence, the script will continue to be nothing more than a controversy. However, brain damage and the side effects of drug-taking stand as a growing, significant, and real problem in the NFL. CTE, of which an estimated 91% of players suffer, affects self-control and rage management, resulting in likely unintended violent acts.

The NFL is the most popular sport in America, and thus one of the most well-known sports in the world. And, as with any other popular sport, there are fallbacks and safety issues. However, with the NFL exponentially growing in profit and size, these problems need to be confronted and resolved before they spiral out of hand.

Samuel Teoh
10k+ pageviews

Samuel Teoh is a homeschooled high school sophomore in Taiwan. He is the News & Media Director of AspirAsian, a Senior Editor and Video Editor for Polyphony Lit, and a published author. He is passionate about identity and self-expression, whether through writing, art, or film. His favorite pastimes are drinking bubble tea, listening to K-pop (especially NewJeans!), and reading/writing stories.

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