By: Daniel Wilson
As we look back on the NFL, years past have been filled with exciting plays and cheering fans. Despite this, they have also been filled with many unanswered questions. 2017 was a year the NFL hopes to forget, as it was packed with controversy, anger from the players, anger from management, and an overall sense of loss in terms of viewers and ratings. The entirety of the controversy stems from kneeling to the National Anthem, which many viewers found to be disrespectful. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did not help much in calming the storm. Prior to this season, Goodell has been at the forefront of plenty of controversies, mostly stemming from player discipline and how he chooses to hand out punishments. He underwent a lot of criticism for how he has handled players with a past of domestic abuse, along with various other problems that have arose such as Deflate Gate surrounding the Patriots.
The love for the NFL has been revived throughout the 2018 season, mostly to the emergence of many young stars who have been holding the attention of viewers. With Goodell staying in the shadows, people can tune in and watch games with excitement. Patriots owner Robert Kraft commented on the rise in viewers for the 2018 season, saying “the fans don’t care about the noise and our situation, they’re there to focus on the game.” Essentially, the owners in the NFL realized that people were not concerned with their internal management and what was going on behind the scenes; they simply wanted to enjoy football and allow the players to speak for themselves. Colin Kaepernick was also the highlight of the 2017 season, losing his job in the NFL for starting the kneeling protests. As a new season approached, the NFL decided to allow the young stars of the NFL to keep the attention of viewers.
Certainly the 2018 season had its own bits of controversy, but it was miniscule compared to previous years. The 2018 playoffs saw a blown call that almost certainly would have sent the New Orleans Saints to the Super Bowl, creating anger once again. The NFL worked quickly to resolve the controversy and admit they were wrong with the call on the field, which helped fans slightly settle.
Another intriguing event was the news of running back Kareem Hunt abusing a girl on video, which was also swiftly handled by Goodell. When controversies like Kareem Hunt have surfaced in the past, the handling of the situation has been quite lacking in severity, and the NFL has fallen under a lot of scrutiny for it, for good reason. In this incident, almost immediately, Hunt was released and placed on an exception list, banning him from the NFL indefinitely. This was a great move for the NFL, showing they have more of an understanding about the severity of those crimes and how they should be handled despite how they have been handled in the past. It reveals that they are trying to make a difference, even if it is small.
For the NFL, the year of 2018 was exactly what they needed. They saw a rise in viewers, a slew of young talent began to develop in front of our eyes, new teams making a name for themselves, and an overall more stable league. Now that Goodell is in the background, the negative association linked with the NFL has started to diminish a bit. They hope to continue this success into the 2019 season and reestablish the American peoples’ trust in the game and in the organization as a whole.