In a recent article on NFL.com, Baltimore Ravens defensive back Bernard Pollard, a six year player out of Purdue, commented on the future of the NFL stating that “I just truly believe, another 20, 30 years — I don’t even think football will even be in existence anymore.” He made these remarks in a reference to the way the game is being played versus the commissioner’s goal to make football safer. “You’re taking away the game of football,” he says concerning the continual rules changes to make the game safer.
While it can be said that Pollard is a defensive minded player and sees the new rules from that perspective, is he right in the assumption that the game could actually go away or even change in such dramatic fashion that it would no longer be recognizable to those who play the game today? As farfetched as it may seem, let’s examine some facts about recent developments concerning the game of football in the NFL.
On May 3, former Atlanta Falcons running back was among more than 100 former players filing concussion lawsuits against the NFL. They join about 1500 other former players who claim that the league hid the dangers of concussions from them. This could just a case of the former employees seeing the dollar signs given out in recent contracts and trying to get a piece of the pie, but it could also have some serious ramifications moving forward. Suppose the former players win some, if not many of these lawsuits. What then? Would the NFL be forced to continuously pay out money to ex-players on a yearly basis to cover these costs? Could it afford it? The answer may seem to be that they could afford it, but for how long? The money train could run out as more and more owners could start to lose money and sell off their teams and their team’s assets to get out of the mess all together.
As more and more parents see the dangers of concussions and the harm that NFL players are under, will they encourage their children to play other sports? Soccer in the US is already starting to gain momentum that it has never seen before. Packed stadiums for matches in larger cities show that the games popularity, already number one in the rest of the world, is increasing here. If the money starts to follow, do more and more athletes choose soccer over the NFL? What about already established sports leagues such as MLB, the NBA, and the NHL? Could they see an increase in the amount of really talented athletes as more and more parents decide that the chance for their children getting concussions in football is just too much for them.
“When Nike unveiled their new uniforms, I’m surprised they didn’t have flags on the side,” says Pollard. The NFL is trying to see the safety of the game improve but faced with the turmoil of the lawsuits, future concussions, and potentially losing better athletes to other sports could flag football seriously become a reality down the road? The NFL is all about money, after all it is a big business. It would have to adapt to survive. What will it look like fifty years down the road? The game of football could be so dramatically different that we might not even recognize it. If the NFL doesn’t stem the flow of this potential devastation now, might we no longer have the game we love so much anymore at all? Soccer anyone?