NFL Seeks to Improve Global Image, Considering Opening 2018 Season in Most Oppressive Country in the World
Per NBC’s ProFootballTalk.com, the National Football League is examining whether to open the 2018 season in China.
This is not the NFL’s first toe-dipping into international waters. The NFL’s long-term play, I would assume, is to create some sort of partnership with other countries so that several games could be played over-seas each season. Yearly games in London’s Wembley Stadium suggest that National Football League already has relationships with the British government; and, after a decade-long endeavor called “NFL Europe,” the league presumably still has contacts within European state departments. Roger Goodell’s office has been communicative with both the Canadian and Mexican governments since he became commissioner, as games have been located in Toronto and Mexico City during his tenure.
The NFL, a non-governmental actor, already has relationships with other governments; it is one of our country’s most in-demand business exports. So, why then, would the NFL choose to do business with one of the oppressive regimes in the world?
At a time when the NFL is existentially threatened — by public relations issues (self-inflicted or otherwise), the rising threat of concussions and CTE, and an increasing disparity in player wages — attempting to bring football to China seems like a bad investment. The reality is that the NFL really is not in a healthy enough position right now to attempt to make grandiose expansion plans. All of this is exacerbated by the fact that China is 100% the wrong place to try to expand.
Last year, the Chinese government lauded the fact that their country’s human rights abuses have improved. The number of possible crimes eligible for the death penalty (usually by firing squad) has been reduced from 55 to 46. According to Human Rights Watch, Education Minister Yuan Guiren issued new expansions of educational programs but warned Chinese universities against teaching Western values and to censor speech constituting “attack and slander against [the Chinese government].”
The reality is that no matter how rosy the picture is painted by the Chinese government, they are still one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. While the United States government turns a blind eye to atrocities committed by China, American companies continue to exploit the access that China provides to cheap labor. The NFL should not condone human rights abuses by engaging their perpetrators with business proposals.
Football games held in Beijing should be similarly as tasteless to the American psyche as Major League Baseball held in Havana, Cuba.
The NFL, if it wants to continue to flourish in the United States, needs to focus on its ground game. For example, the impact of concussion revelations threatens the future of football because less parents will be inclined to allow their children to play tackle football. In response, the NFL should be focused on reinvigorating and reinvesting in youth football; expanding access to the country’s past-time rather than sending it overseas. Like a politician, Commissioner Goodell should be campaigning and selling the NFL’s platform of “Football is Family” for the very existence of the sport.
Football is, of course, an international game. In fact, there would be nothing better than for the NFL to expand to other countries and incorporate more of the world’s fans. There is a difference, however, when the motivation behind bringing the game to a new place is purely monetary and lacks practical ethical considerations.