Though baseball is “America’s pastime,” football is by far this country’s most popular sport. Television ratings for the MLB All-Star Game have fallen 55 percent since 1980, and the World Series ratings sit at one eighth of the Super Bowl’s ratings. In addition to viewership, the differences between regional and national broadcasts skew revenue in the NFL’s favor. But there is a serious issue with the NFL’s dominance in the media.
Both the NFL and MLB have had incidents of domestic violence in recent memory. However, the NFL has insufficiently and inconsistently dealt with such issues and needs to be held responsible. MLB is being held to a higher standard with regard to punishment, so the NFL must follow suit.
When Ray Rice, former running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was indicted for assaulting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell elected to suspend Rice for just two games. As another example, Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers was suspended three games in back-to-back seasons for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. In repeatedly suspending Bell and levying a minimal punishment against Rice, the NFL is implying that domestic abuse is OK but it is less acceptable to miss a drug test. Rice has not played in the NFL since his suspension but he should never have been granted reinstatement to the league.
One would think that a league with star players guilty of domestic abuse would be losing revenue by the millions. However, the NFL earns more than $6 billion per year on network deals alone and total revenue for the league is projected to surpass $13 billion this year. Yet with players such as Greg Hardy getting suspensions reduced, it is unjust that the league is maintaining its dominance among professional sports.
Due to his involvement in a domestic violence incident, Greg Hardy was suspended for 10 games for “conduct detrimental to the league.” Arguably more frustrating is the fact that his suspension was eventually reduced to four games. He should never be able to play another down in the NFL.
In contrast, in March 2016, Chicago Cubs pitcher Aroldis Chapman was suspended for the first 30 games of the 2016 season for his involvement in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. While the incident didn’t cause any physical harm to Chapman’s girlfriend, the then-Yankees closer was forced to sit out a fifth of his season.
The very manner in which viewers are exposed to the two leagues puts the NFL at a distinct advantage. NFL games are televised nationally every week, whereas most of a MLB team’s 162 games are broadcasted regionally. As a result, there is more pressure on MLB to maintain a more strict disciplinary policy. If MLB were to be more relaxed with its domestic violence policy, then they would lose viewership and — by extension — revenue. The NFL is only concerned with national TV revenue, which takes the importance away from isolated cases like with Ray Rice and Greg Hardy.
We, as consumers, should pay more attention to MLB because the league treats domestic violence more seriously than the NFL. No league’s disciplinary standard is perfect, but the NFL’s is certainly the most overtly flawed. In supporting a league that is essentially turning a blind eye to domestic abuse, we are creating a horrible precedent for future generations.
Owen Hill is a senior Economics major, Chinese Studies minor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @owen_lee_sports.