Friday, August 26, 2011

The NFL Meritocracy

Is the NFL the "ultimate meritocracy," as  Roger Goodell recently claimed? The commissioners comments, reported here on ESPN, were accompanied by a 1 million dollar donation to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation in Washington D.C.

Dr. King's legacy is certainly one to honor, but is the NFL in a position to really do so? Is there a particular hypocrisy being put on display, or has the NFL truly been a friend to the hopes and ideals the MLK gave his life for?

I must admit that I am not a friend of the NFL, although I do enjoy watching football on television. Pofessional football, as with all professional sports in the U.S., has a spotted history in regards to race. But I get the feeling that the NFL prides itself in somehow being above the fray, at least compared to baseball and basketball.

Statistics about the number of young men of all races who squander their minds and talents chasing the fools gold of an NFL career are grim. Statistics about the number of injuries and disappointments among those lucky enough to make it to the NFL at all are grim as well. Is that a meritocracy? Or is the kind of "meritocracy" that Dr. King worked for something a bit different than what Goodell had in mind with his foolish comparison?

I think of my classmate from Northwestern, Jason Wright. A talented football player who, though undrafted, played for nearly a decade in the NFL by espousing hard work, leadership, and right living. The NFL served him well it would seem. But he also did things the right way, not sacrificing NFL dreams for a stellar education. The reality is, and Jason would wholeheartedly agree, is that he was simply blessed. That's not true for everyone of his teamates. For some, the NFL may be yet one more crushing example of why we still need today to embrace the lessons that Dr. King preached when he was still with us.

    RB Jason Wright

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