Obama Drops the Ball on NFL Issues

Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask, sitting between Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman and Andrea Kremer, is one of the few women in management positions in the NFL.
Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask, sitting between Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman and Andrea Kremer, is one of the few women in management positions in the NFL.

When the President of the United States speaks, people tend to listen. In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, President Barack Obama spoke out on the issue of safety in the National Football League. Of course, with the biggest single day sporting event in the world just around the corner, President Obama decided to weigh in on the hot topic of discussion circling around the water coolers.

That would be the violence in football that is keeps us glued to the television sets every Saturday and Sunday. President Obama had an opportunity to speak out on the current dilemma of certain structural racial practices that are within place when it comes to the hiring of African Americans as head coaches.

He had a chance to take on Commissioner Roger Goodell and The Shield about latest black-eye the league received when the recent 13 head coaching and general manager vacant positions were not filled by a single minority.

Congress just gave the okay for women to serve in combat, yet not one woman was hired for any of the five general manager positions. In an interview with The New Republic, where he discusses his thoughts about the safety of the game of football, President Obama had as good a time as any to talk about the equality for women in the workplace. Instead, he blew it.

All of those general manager jobs, like the eight head coaching vacancies went to white men.  Why is this issue a big deal? It is an issue because nearly 70% (actually 67 percent, according to a 2012 study by The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport) of the players in the NFL happen to be black. The latest hiring binge by the NFL left the league with three head coaching positions filled by black men.

That’s three out of 32. That’s not a good percentage by any stretch of the imagination when you compare it to the numbers of players on the football field.

Timing is everything. And this was the perfect time for President Obama to expand the safety-related question posed to him during the interview and dive into the issue of the NFL’s hiring practices of minorities, which is a big deal for many folks, particularly those hoping to see a more level playing field when it comes to front office employment opportunities.

President Obama, just speaking on it briefly, would have certainly widened the discussion on a more national scale of minority hires at NFL management level. It definitely would have put the NFL on alert if the president had weighed in on the subject. Instead, President Obama tucked tail and ran away from the matter altogether. Sure, safety is a big thing to address in the NFL, but so are other issues such as fairness and equal opportunity to work.

If you’re going to target the injuries that occur in the NFL, why not take a look and talk about the lack of safety in other sports, like soccer and cheerleading, Mr. President?

Female participants in soccer stand a 50 percent chance of suffering a concussion and are twice as likely to sustain that type of injury as their male counterpart, according to the Sports Concussion Institute (SDI).  While the institute illustrates the impact of football-related hits, it also points out the speed of impact of a player taking a ball by the head would come in at 70 miles per hour.

Let’s see, a ball to the head at 70 mph? We’re only allowed to drive 65 mph on the freeway. And we think football is violent.

I wonder if President Obama is aware that gymnastics post more injuries than any other sports that girls and young women participate in. I’d like to know how much is he aware that being a cheerleader can be just as dangerous as football, with the sport being the avenue of many catastrophic injuries.  While we’re at it, let’s look at the perils of extreme sports.

Sarah Burke, a six-time Winter X Games champion, died from complications of brain damage suffered in a crash practicing what she did best last year. Now we have the horrific crash of Caleb Moore during this year’s Winter X Games before us. The prognosis on Moore’s condition is not good, according to various published reports.  It’s time for people to wake up and re-examine the safety measures taken in extreme sports.

Since he has gone out of his way to talk about safety in the NFL, why isn’t President Obama speaking out on these other sports as he has on football? The safety issue in professional football has been brought to light the past few years with lawsuits against the NFL by former players and the suicides of former stars Dave Duerson and Junior Seau. Both men reportedly suffered from brain damage which many believe came as a direct or indirect result of playing football.

This is not a new story. This is an ongoing story that gained more traction because of the popularity of Super Bowl week. The more relevant and recent issue surrounding the NFL, however, has been the one largely ignored by the media. And to that point, it was also ignored completely by President Obama.


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