By Richard Pryor III
Robert Kraft, the éminence grise of the National Football League and owner of the New England Patriots, was charged on Friday, February 22, with two counts of soliciting prostitution in Jupiter, Florida.
While certainly the first NFL owner in a long time to face legal threat, this is the second year in a row that an NFL owner has come under fire for their relationship with women, after former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson sold the team last summer because of revelations about his treatment of female subordinates.
I have already thought in this column about whether we can ethically consume a product where the major creators of that project (players) often have legal troubles. But it’s clear that football has a problem, and that problem is that it is a “macho” sport.
In his 2008 article in the American Sociological Review, Dr. Derek Kreager of Penn State University found that “football players and wrestlers, as opposed to baseball, basketball, tennis, and other athletes, are significantly more likely than non-athletic males to be involved in a serious fight.” In a comment given upon the article’s publication, Kreager noted that unlike most sports, “football and wrestling are associated with violent behavior because both sports involve some physical domination of the opponent, which is rewarded by the fans, coaches and other players.”
We saw this issue of rewarding violence and “macho” behavior come to a head in 2011 with the Bountygate scandal, where it was revealed that New Orleans Saints coaches were paying players extra for tough hits on specific players.
As a result, head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season, and then-Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was indefinetly suspended (which has since been revoked). Additionally, four players were disciplined by the NFL.
If this machismo has spread to coaches and owners, what does that mean for the future of the NFL and violent sports? I am honestly not sure. But we need to have a positive nationwide conversation on this topic – or else things like this will keep happening. But let’s start by using the disciplinary tools we have (I’m looking at you, Goodell.)