Amid outrage, NFL keeps counting its money

Are NFL fans willing to send a message by boycotting games? It doesn’t seem likely. Jeff Wheeler/AP/Star Tribune
Jeff Wheeler/AP/Star Tribune
Are NFL fans willing to send a message by boycotting games? It doesn’t seem likely.

We have outrage. We have heightened awareness. We have thousands of hours of programming, debating who should be allowed to play football this Sunday, and whether Roger Goodell is fit to be commissioner of the National Football League.

Magazine covers and newspaper headlines expose and condemn the criminality of ballplayers while the league itself acknowledges that playing football causes brain damage in nearly a third of the pro players. And social media, of course, never sleeps, providing an endless forum on the awfulness of it all.

On Tuesday, we had mighty Anheuser-Busch (halfway through a six-year, $1.2 billion deal with the NFL) firing a veiled threat at The Shield. The beer folk said they are “disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season.’’ They said they are “not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors,” adding, “We have shared our concern and expectations with the league.’’


Swell. Meanwhile, the overstuffed NFL owners keep getting richer, the television ratings keep getting better, Vegas is cleaning up and, by the way, how did you do with your fantasy team last weekend? Did the Vikings’ decision to deactivate Adrian Peterson cost you any points in your league?

Get Breaking Sports Alerts in your inbox:
Be the first to know the latest sports news as it happens.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” broadcast of the Bears and 49ers yielded a rating 3 percent higher than the Week 2 game last year. It was the most-watched network program Sunday night, topping anything offered by ABC, CBS, or Fox. Locally, the Patriots-Vikings telecast produced a 65 market share, the most-watched program of the weekend in Boston.

Until the beer barons and their friends withdraw sponsorship (never), we are just baying at the moon. All the congressional outrage, gubernatorial objections, NOW calls for Goodell’s resignation, and protest planes flying over stadiums won’t change the indisputable fact that the NFL is more popular than ever.

Sadly, it’s not about to change because Ray Rice punched his wife in an elevator or because Peterson “whupped” his 4-year-old son with a switch.

The NFL is a $9 billion industry and Goodell has pledged to his owners that he will make it a $25 billion industry. Think Bob Kraft or Daniel Snyder or Jerry Jones wants to mess with this game plan? Think again.


The only way Goodell doesn’t survive these scandals is if the in-house investigation establishes that he saw the Rice elevator video before he doled out the first (two-game) suspension. Don’t count on that.

Anybody out there willing to take a stand by boycotting professional football? No more going to games, no more watching on television, no more fantasy football? Didn’t think so. True change could take place if ratings dipped and/or sponsors pulled out, but we all know that is not going to happen.

The NFL will weather this big storm until the hysteria subsides. The league can do it because that’s what the fans ultimately want. I haven’t heard anyone say they want to give up their weekly professional football fix.

That’s why if you are an NFL owner, you do exactly what most of them are doing. You keep quiet, count your money, and wait for it all to go away. According to the Globe’s Steven Syre, the value of the top 10 franchises in the league increased between 22 and 44 percent in the last year.

Think Kraft is going to take a stand and talk about the sins of the NFL? Think again. According to Forbes, the Patriots are worth $2.6 billion and appreciated by 44 percent since last year — which is the same year in which Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder, shortly after the Patriots signed him to a $40 million extension.


At that time, Kraft said the franchise had been “duped.’’ The Patriots owner sounded as if he had been duped again last week when he went on “CBS This Morning” and said Goodell was doing an “excellent” job with the league’s domestic violence program.

Patriots fans who are judgmental about the renegade Ravens embracing Rice in the months after his arrest (before the second tape surfaced) and the Vikings’ unconscionable decision to play Peterson this weekend (before placing him on the exempt-commissioner’s permission list) need to remember what goes on in Foxborough.

Think the Vikings were the devil for reinstating Peterson before reversing course because of public pressure? Want to rip the 49ers for playing Ray McDonald while authorities prepare their case against him?

Go back to the Corey Dillon era in New England. The Krafts like to maintain that “there are certain things that are as important to us, and in some cases, more important to us, than winning” (Jonathan Kraft, on 98.5 The Sports Hub after the Patriots acquired Albert Haynesworth in 2011), but that didn’t stop them from hiring Dillon in 2004.

Four years before the Patriots traded for Dillon, he was arrested when police found his wife with a bloody mouth. Dillon used the self-defense excuse, admitted he accidentally struck his wife, then received probation.

Dillon came here and was the Patriots’ Pro Bowl back in the 2004 Super Bowl season. In 2010, after leaving New England, he was arrested again on suspicion of assaulting his wife. The charges were dropped when his wife recanted.

It goes on everywhere. It is a societal problem, not just an NFL problem.

This has been an awful 10 days for the NFL, but let’s not kid ourselves. We love football. We will go to the games and watch the games and interact with everything the league offers. We are the Roman Republic, circa 60 BC, and these are our gladiators.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.