Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers

Football is America’s modern gladiator sport, and a great ritual for food, gambling and family gatherings. But that doesn’t mean the whole country would be lost on Sundays without the pigskin. In fact, Americans of all backgrounds are ditching the gridiron in droves, thanks in large part to the politicization of the 2016 season, sparked by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism.
Kaepernick’s protest and league owners’ decision to blackball him in response have drawn a line in the sand for many fans, with some asking why they should continue investing time and money to help grow a hopelessly corrupt and antiquated corporation. Unless your team has a shot at contending for a title, there’s not much to be excited about this year. So if you’re still on the fence about picking up a new hobby or finding a more productive way to spend your Sundays this fall, here are seven reasons besides the league’s treatment of Kap not to watch pro football this year.

Concussions

Concussion-related issues have been the greatest threat to the league’s future for over a decade, for two simple reasons: One, the bone-crushing hits that once made NFL football so exhilarating are less enjoyable now that fans know the long-term repercussions. Then, at the same time, the new protocol meant to protect players from vicious hits also makes the game feel like it’s missing an essential ingredient that Americans love so much: violence.

Drug Abuse

No one should be surprised when the NFL overlooks drug abuse. With all 32 teams shamelessly abusing the financial and medical faith that players put in their organizations, it’s no wonder that drugs among players is so common. Many of these players are severely suffering off the field.

Ezekiel Elliott’s Fishy Suspension

The league’s controversial six-game suspension of Elliott is still being challenged by an appeal. While players have returned from charges of domestic battery, DUI and vehicular manslaughter with less severe suspensions than Elliott, it seems the running back is being punished for reasons beyond the accusations made by his ex, who is on record threatening to use her White privilege to frame him and  even asking a friend to lie to police and say she witnessed Elliott hit her. This gets a serious side-eye.

Hypocrisy

Players like Ricky Williams and Josh Gordon have been suspended and ridiculed for using marijuana to cope with the pain of their jobs while Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has lived what ESPN once called a “shadow life” of drug abuse without much backlash from the league. Most recently, in 2014, Irsay was stopped for erratic driving and found with pills and almost $30,000 in cash. Imagine the fallout if one of his players were found in similar circumstances.

Racism

It’s no secret that the NFL has exactly zero owners of color, despite the fact that the majority of its players are non-White. This is the root problem of Kaepernick being blackballed, but it extends to every aspect of the game, including rules that discourage player expression and celebration, which limits their earning potential off the field and after their careers as players.

Exploitation

The average NFL player has a three to six-year career, which permanently damages their brain and body. They can be cut without second thought the moment they are no longer useful to their team. Unlike other pro-athletes, NFLers don’t have fully-guaranteed contracts. A single injury could be the difference between a multi-million-dollar career and a shattered dream of pain and poverty.

Team Trump

If you really can’t find it within yourself to part ways with football for the fall, have fun “making American great again” with the All Lives Matter crowd. According to 2016 stats, the majority of NFL fans are 55+, 77% are Caucasian and 25% make $100,000 per year. If that’s your kind of crowd, have fun with Jim Brown, Ray Lewis and the rest of Trump’s NFL. If not, Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays might be the perfect nights for the resistance to make a big play.