NFL: A History of Bad Incidents and Deteriorating Character


Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets logo prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets have been a passion of mine since I was a young boy growing up in Queens. I lived and breathed football back then. From games played in back alleys and vacant lots to my senior year in high school, I loved to play the game. As a fan, I cut my teeth on live football; attending my first game at the old Polo Grounds to see the newly formed New York Titans. For anyone who might not know, they were the predecessors to the Jets.

To this day I still remember my first football coach and the lessons he taught. Coach Allen was an old man in my eyes, though he likely wasn’t over 40 back then. Coach taught more than football, he went beyond the X’s and O’s, and individual assignments. He taught lessons of responsibility, pride, self-confidence and integrity. He taught us respect for ourselves and others. Coach was a good guy.

Having said all that, and likely boring you to tears, I’ll get to my point. The game of football, especially NFL football, has lost all of that. Over the decades I’ve watched the game deteriorate. First slowly, with an incident here and there, then building up steam to where we are now.

I’ve heard it said that football players mirror the society, and it’s only natural that these type of incidents occur in the sport. While that may be true to some degree, I reject this argument when it pertains to the NFL. I believe it’s the league’s fault, specifically the Commissioner’s office, and I’ll tell you why.

Next: The Green Bay Packers

Aug 2, 2014; Canton, OH, USA;

Paul Hornung

looks on at the TimkenSteel Grand Parade on Cleveland Avenue in advance of the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In 1963 the NFL experienced a huge scandal for the time. Green Bay Packers stars Paul Hornung and Alex Karras admitted to gambling on NFL games. I mention it because it shows the disparity of punishment in the NFL and other professional sports. Hornung and Karras were suspended by then commissioner; Pete Rozelle. The suspension lasted one year, with Rozelle reinstating them in 1964. Paul Hornung went on to be installed into the Hall of Fame in 1986.

In contrast, Pete Rose was found to have bet on MLB games both as a player and a manager in 1989. Paul Giamatti, the commissioner of MLB at the time, stepped up to the mike and hit Rose with a lifetime ban. Rose was a sure-fire candidate for MLB’s Hall of Fame. In 1991, MLB passed a rule that those banned from the game could not be considered for the hall. To this date, Rose has never been reinstated.

Historically, NFL commissioners have been slow to punish players. While researching this article, I was only able to find (2)  players to have been banned from the sport. Dexter Manley was banned from the game in 1991, for testing positive for cocaine numerous times. Art Schlichter  was banned from the game, but only after several run ins with law enforcement for illegal gambling operations.

It’s interesting to note here that Pete Rozelle was the Commissioner of the NFL when both players received their lifetime ban. It’s also interesting to note, Manley was the last player to be banned for drug use.

The NFL continues to degrade, with many incidents on and off the field. The NFL has facilitated an environment where these incidents are allowed to go on. Let’s take a look at some.

Next: The Jets

Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; NFL former quarterback

Joe Namath

(left) poses with former player

Michael Strahan

prior to Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets aren’t immune either. Many Jets fans will remember the scandal involving Brett Favre. Favre was involved with a “sexting” incident, where he sent pictures of his genitalia to sideline reporter Jenn Sterger. The NFL investigated, and concluded that they had no grounds to discipline Favre.

Joe Namath also had his troubles in New York and the Jets. In 1969, Pete Rozelle told Namath he had to sell his ownership in a bar called Bachelor’s III. Namath retired from football three days later. The bar was connected to illegal gambling and prostitution. Luckily for Jet fans he sold the club and rejoined the Jets six weeks later. Many will also remember Namath’s infamous drunken sideline interview with Suzy Kolber as well. In the recent past the Jets were involved in “Trip Gate”, an extremely embarrassing incident for Jet fans.

Next: Owners Not Immune

December 23, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. (right) and chief executive officer Jed York (left) after the final regular season game at Candlestick Park against the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers defeated the Falcons 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ownership isn’t without its blame either. San Fransisco Eddie DeBartolo was connected to an extortion case in 1989. He and then Governor of Louisiana Edwin Edwards were part of a $400,000 extortion case involving a River Boat gambling license. DeBartolo was indicted by a grand jury in 1990, and went on to plead guilty to the lesser charge of failure to report a felony. DeBartolo was suspended in 1999 for one year, but shortly thereafter surrendered control of his team to his sister.

These incidents and many more like them should have been warning signs of things to come. It was becoming apparent in the 1990’s that the NFL was losing its power or will to discipline players that violated league conduct policies. Stars were receiving slaps on their wrists for their violations, and it set up an increasing trend.

Sep 15, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants former player Lawrence Taylor (left) and former head coach Bill Parcells are honored at halftime of the game against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has seen an increasing number of scandals in recent history. We’ve seen everything from the scandalous, to the bizarre in the NFL. We’ve seen Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor suspended for cocaine use several times before retiring. Unfortunately for Taylor, he again embarrassed himself and the league when he hit the news in 2011 for soliciting sex from a minor. We’ve seen players bring guns into locker rooms, shoot themselves in the foot, and we’ve even seen them arrested for drugs and a gun while driving intoxicated. Personal conduct suspensions have risen at an alarming rate in the NFL in the past 20 years.

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Players have increasingly run into trouble with law enforcement as well. The list of DUI arrests over the past five years is far too long to list. Drug arrests are on the rise as well, despite NFL drug testing. Players seemingly don’t care about the consequences, rather depending on their stardom to get off or reduce their penalties in the courts.

Recently, the NFL was rocked by the arrest of Aaron Hernandez who was connected to a murder. As the investigation deepened, he was connected to other possible murders as well. Hernandez was cut by the New England Patriots when the arrest was made, and is currently standing trial for his crimes. To date, he hasn’t received a ban from the league.

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speaks at a press conference after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Then we have the “Gate” series of scandals that have struck the league. In my opinion, these are the most important scandals. These are on field, organized violations of league rules, orchestrated by head coaches or their assistants. We’ve had “Bounty Gate,” ” SpyGate,” “TripGate” and most recently, ” DeflateGate”.

This growing trend by teams and coaches to break the rules to gain even a perceived  advantage in a game is deeply troubling. For me, these scandals have been an assault on the sport. The NFL is on a dangerous slippery slope. Its reputation is being tarnished by these cheating scandals, and that could prove to be very damaging in the long run.

Next: Analysis

I know by writing this piece, I’ll likely be accused by some that its intent was to further embarrass the New England Patriots. The fact that this piece comes on the heels of another scandal involving the team, and on the heels of a Super Bowl victory, has little to do with its purpose.

I have been thinking long and hard on this subject for quite some time. I’ve been a critic of Rodger Goodell’s and the NFL’s handling of discipline for several years in fact. The NFL and its owners need to get serious about its discipline, if it expects to be respected in sports circles world-wide. As I’ve said before, the league is on a slippery slope.

My reader’s might have noticed an absence in my writings in the past two weeks. While few would mourn their absence, I’m sure there is at least one person that might have noticed. I’ve been having some health problems, minor, but troubling. Besides visiting doctors offices, I’ve been struggling with the NFL current status.

My conclusion is this, I’m tired of opening up the sports page only to find another player arrested. I’ve tired of the drugs, the guns, the wife beaters, the child abusers, the thieves, the alcoholics, and the murderers that make up the NFL today. I may have to tolerate them in our society, but not in sports. Quite frankly I’m tired of Rodger Goodell making a mockery of the sport I love.

After 40+ years of watching the NFL, I’ve come to the conclusion that it no longer is a sport. Gone are the lessons my coaches taught me on the gridiron. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I opened up a clip this morning to see the game ending brawl at the Super Bowl. There is no integrity left to the sport. Sportsmanship is gone, along with everything else I loved about NFL football. As a result, I will be watching NCAA football exclusively next season.

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Yes, I realize that may seem drastic, but it isn’t an overnight decision. Yes, people make mistakes, I’m not condemning any individual or team, I’ve made plenty of my own mistakes. For me its the love of the game, the fair play, and the respectability of the league. That to me is what makes the game great; the NFL is void of those things. Goodell will put the final nail in the coffin, when he publicly apologizes to Robert Kraft for investigating a cheating allegation. It’s the Commissioner’s job to investigate all and any allegations. He should never have to apologize for doing his job.

I will continue to write my weekly pieces here through the offseason, and through the draft. With the beginning of the 2015 regular season I will discuss any future with the Jet Press with my editor. The fact that I will no longer viewing games, will likely end my tenure here.

Thanks for the read.  Join in on the discussion. Let’s talk football.

Next: Super Bowl Recap