Thursday, July 30, 2015

NFL's Suspension of Tom Brady A Victory For Equal Rights

The National Football League issued a decision Tuesday to uphold a four game suspension which had previously been handed down to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for allegedly directing team personnel to deflate footballs to his liking prior to last year’s AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Tom Brady points out a football he considers to be overweight. (Photo by Keith Allison)
The NFL’s ruling regarding Tom Brady’s suspension is a bold one that sends a clear message to players and their families.  For many years, star athletes have been given preferential treatment and lenient punishments for committing violent, prejudiced, or demeaning acts.  In the case of Tom Brady’s recent suspension, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has finally put his foot down and taken a necessary and groundbreaking stand in favor of a group that has long been ostracized and belittled, and whose members are constantly treated like objects:  Footballs.

The Football community has become an increasing integral part of our American society, yet its members continue to be kicked around without regard for their well-being.  Despite their position as an irreplaceable capstone in our society, Footballs are treated as lower-class compared to the male athletes who seemingly control their fate week in and week out.

The case involving Tom Brady serves as a nuanced microcosm for the larger issue that plagues our society.  Brady, a rich, white male--and undoubtedly privileged athlete--allegedly played God, asserting his will over several Footballs which were taken into a bathroom behind closed doors and forced to shed weight against their will to his personal liking.  The fact that the NFL already has a systematic selection process for ruling out Footballs which are considered to be “too heavy” is absurd and discriminatory in itself, especially when the Footballs deemed to be “good enough” are paraded around every week while millions of people watch.  So, for a player—and a widely influential one at that—to allegedly send the message that these Footballs need to shed even more weight to earn his acceptance is inexcusable.  And to attempt to do so via such an invasive method with surreptitious force violates the inalienable rights of Footballs so egregiously that a lack of substantial punishment directed at Brady would set back the Football Rights movement by decades and risk the NFL being labeled as unsympathetic to violence against Footballs.

Even without Brady’s alleged Footballist behavior, Footballs have struggled to gain equal rights and consideration across the country and the world.  In the United States, Footballs continue to be subjected to boundless physical harassment, often being groped, held, and stared at by players as if they are mere objects or targets.  Internationally, Footballs are barely recognized or acknowledged in society.

If Roger Goodell were to allow Brady’s actions against Footballs to go without proper punishment, it would undoubtedly undermine the legitimacy of the NFL.  Furthermore, letting Brady play the beginning of the 2015 season would send a message to players, coaches, and fans alike that this kind of demeaning behavior was acceptable practice.  By taking a firm stance on the issue, the NFL has done their part to send the message that this type of harassment is a serious offense and should be stopped.  Given the NFL’s long history of doing the right thing and dolling out harsh punishment when faced with situations pertaining to the physical safety and emotional well-being of individuals and groups, we should not have expected anything other than swift, sensible, and unbiased disciplinary action.

In the 2015 NFL, it’s time that Footballs start receiving appropriate treatment and consideration.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that Football Rights are the last great frontier which the league needs to appropriately address, given that issues such as player safety, concussions and the link to subsequent chronic depression, and personal player conduct with regard to domestic violence against women have been sufficiently solved by the NFL.  Brady's suspension is a first step in the right direction.

By issuing a four game suspension for allegedly deflating footballs, the NFL showed their intention to institute a no-nonsense policy with regard to Football harassment, just as they did with past incidents involving domestic violence.  The punishment for Brady is twice as long as the initial suspension handed down to star player Ray Rice after he punched his girlfriend in the face, rendered her unconscious, and dragged her out of an elevator.  Likewise, when star player Greg Hardy threw his girlfriend onto a floor, into a bathtub, onto a couch covered in assault weapons, strangled her, and threatened to shoot her, NFL again handled the situation with an iron first, also suspending Hardy for four games.  (Editor’s note: However, judging by precedent set by the NFL in 2009 when they suspended wide receiver Donte Stallworth for a full season after he drove drunk and killed a pedestrian, it’s important to note that Hardy’s suspension likely would have been extended to a full 16 games had he actually shot is girlfriend.)  The message that the well-being of Footballs is twice as important as the well-being of women shows just how serious the NFL is.

So, with the issue of Football Rights now at the forefront of discussions thanks to Tom Brady’s alleged heinous acts, it’s safe to say that we can expect nothing less from the NFL and Roger Goodell than an appropriate, logical, and level-headed response.

 Once the issue of Football Rights has been addressed by the league, all that Goodell will need to mitigate in order to earn the sport indisputable perfection is teaching his players to tackle using their arms instead of propelling themselves face-first towards the ball carrier like a human javelin.

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