How bad actors threaten NFL Inc.

With 27 pro football players arrested just since the Super Bowl, the league is staring at a huge image problem.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 28, 2013 12:03PM
Aaron Hernandez stands during a bail hearing on Thursday (© Ted Fitzgerald/AP)Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez faces first-degree murder charges, and now National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell faces a slew of public relations challenges as the most popular U.S. professional sport gets ready for a new season.

Though he has taken a hard line on player misbehavior, the public seems to perceive increasingly that NFL players don't feel bound by the rules that govern the rest of society. As CBS News noted, 27 players have been arrested just since the last Super Bowl in February. Although that represents only about 1% of NFL players, these incidents can be pretty lurid and attract plenty of media attention.

For instance, Cleveland Browns rookie Ausar Walcott allegedly punched a man in the head outside a New Jersey club and faces attempted murder charges. Adam "Pacman" Jones of the Cincinnati Bengals faces assault charges after confronting a woman at a nightclub. Whether these incidents will have any long-term consequences for the NFL remains to be seen. But for the NFL, which earned a reported $9.5 billion in revenue last year, players' misdeeds add to some other issues that could blunt its momentum.

Its 32 teams expect modest growth this year because of the lingering uncertainty over the economy, according to a January report from Bloomberg News. The league is also trying to encourage more fans to attend games in person, since ticket revenue has been flat for years. 

The NFL's financial fortunes, however, will improve in 2014, when the extension for its TV rights kicks in and boosts TV revenue to an average $7 billion annually, from $5.1 billion currently. NFL game telecasts continually attract huge audiences.

Then there are the concussion lawsuits, some 200 of them from 4,300 players who accuse the league of not doing enough to protect them from the health effects of head injuries. Some experts say the litigation could wind up costing billions. The NFL repeatedly has denied wrongdoing in connection with these cases, but the images of suffering ex-players with neurological problems don't help it in the court of public opinion.

The Hernandez case will fade from people's memory eventually. But many parents, even those who love the game, are having misgivings about letting their children play football because of the concussion dangers and the poor role models that some players provide. Addressing these misgivings is vital for the sport's long-term survival.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jun 28, 2013 2:07PM
That's funny, and mostly the problem, the leaders of the NFL think it took 27 incidents to have negative opinions of the 90% of the thugs in their employee, they really mean that the 10% of very fine citizens that represent the NFL can't conceal the blatant actions of the criminals that make up the vast majority of their empire. Pretty much the same for NBA. Any league and owner that would let the likes of Vick in their organization pretty much says it all about them and the rest of that bunch. We don't watch either of them and don't intend to start. 23 years old, a 12 million dollar signing bonus, and a forty million, five year contract, and this mutt idiot is out doing drive byes? Maybe if he can the right scum lawyers, he can pull an OJ. Never know!
Jun 28, 2013 1:13PM
As they drive they sales of beer, chicken wings and sneakers, the media holds up athletes as Gods. They are free to murder (OJ), rape (Kobe), do drugs (Ricky Williams) at will.  Increasingly Americans are getting turned off to the shenanigans of these overpaid princes and turning to own lives for satisfaction. 
Jun 28, 2013 1:40PM
A bunch of thugs.....who would have guessed?
Jun 28, 2013 2:45PM
Jun 28, 2013 3:07PM
You can take the punk out of the hood;but you can't take the hood out of the punk.Even if  put him in the whitehouse.
Jun 28, 2013 2:47PM

I like football, but find myself getting more and more disgusted with the conduct of a lot of the players, and execs, of the NFL

They'll bounce back though. We have a short memory in America for bad behavior any more, as long as we're entertained!

I am very patriotic, but a lot of things are not of the same nature that I said my Pledge of Allegiance for.

Welcome to the United States of Entertainment!!!

Jun 28, 2013 3:52PM
Celebrities and those with vast sums of money (Movie Stars, Models, Sports Figures, politicians, Bank CEO's etc) are unjustifiably idolized and placed above the law by the justice system as well as society at large. This unhealthy pre-occupation with celebrity figures acts as a catalyst promoting actions such as these. Wrist slapping is the expected and often only consequence. 
Jun 29, 2013 8:08AM
Place these guys on a pedestal, give them forty million dollars, and they think themselves as gods.  I enjoy a good football game, but some of these players are disgusting, and their way of life carries over to the field. Football and sportsmanship has changed, just like everything else I guess.  Too bad.
Jun 28, 2013 2:20PM
NFL, is all about winning. If the NFL, wanted to restore integrity, to the game, the Saints, coaches and players, that were involved in bounty-gate, where the New Orleans Saints players, were paid a reward, to deliberately injure another player should have been banned, from the NFL, for life. The same with the refs, that were obviously paid under the table, to overlook and not penalize these same players, during the games where this disgusting behavior occurred, should have been banned from the NFL, for life.
Jun 28, 2013 5:03PM
Of course NO mention of the preponderance of certain 'groups'  in the arrestees, and of course also in those not charged because the victim has received some good $$$ up front.
Jun 28, 2013 3:52PM
If football would just go back to the old leather strap on caps without face guards, then the blood would be external and we could all deal with reality DURING the game.
Jun 28, 2013 7:22PM
This behavior starts before they go Pro - It doesn't matter what the sport is, from a young age if they show promise as an athlete they are treated like Gods and are above the rules so by the time they get to the pros they believe they are above the law.
Jun 28, 2013 4:59PM

Almost completely done with professional sports 10 years ago and get more so every year. I really wish society would clean up its act then start expecting more civil behavior from these over paid thugs and boycott them until that time comes.


Jun 29, 2013 3:48PM

Lets see now.  You take a kid, fresh out of college and hand him a check for forty million dollars.  Or 30, or 50, what's the difference?  Then you expect him, at the ripe old age of 22 or 23 to behave like a responsible adult.  What could possibly go wrong with that?  Especially when he has grown up watching players and ex players get away with every conceivable crime, form drug possession to first degree murder. 


Then you have the vilification of Tebow, simply because he is of good moral character and you have developed a recipe for thugs and goons to join the pro ranks, get the big bucks and start their criminal empire, absolutely convinced they are above the law because OJ, Kobe and others have proven it to be so.  I place about 50% of the blame for this on the media who treat these animals like gods and treat a decent person like Tebow like a pariah, and the other 50% on the NFL for giving these animals these huge checks and expecting them to react rationally.

Jun 28, 2013 2:20PM
A game that bashes each other to a pulp to win is worried about an image problem.  Someone call Leno and give him this new material.  It'll get him an Emmy!
Jun 28, 2013 6:40PM
The problem is not just the NFL.  The NFL is just a little piece of society.  The root problem is in society.  Since the NFL draws its players out of the pool in society, they are bound to experience the same problems that exist throughout society.  I am surprised it is only 1% since these folks are given to violence every Sunday anyway.  Are our politicians any better?  What about the NBA?  What about the NHL?  What about our college campuses . . . tomorrow's leaders?  The police force has its 1% as well.  Hollywood isn't clean either.  What about the military?  It's everywhere . . . your neighborhood and mine as well.
Jul 1, 2013 7:43AM
Could it be (dare we say) because so many pro players are now minorities, who grew up in poor households, maybe without a father, without any discipline, who have no clue how to handle life or money because everything has just been handed to them all their lives.?
Jun 28, 2013 4:27PM
Thank the NFL and NBA as well as college football & basketball.  Without these diversions crime and the prison population would be a lot higher!
Jun 28, 2013 6:38PM
ah if we could only return to the days of yesteryear when coaches ruled the nfl and all other sports.  they would not bother to coach these hoods.  
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