Is the NFL Responsible For Off-Field Violence?
By Michael Abruzzese, Ph.D.
©Copyright 2014 Vista Health Services, Inc.
No, the advertisers are!
The past few weeks have been a cornucopia of bad publicity for the National Football League, team owners and even sports commentators. But why should psychology care? Well, since research findings (mentioned in a previous post) indicate that the chemicals in our body can actually change, depending on the win-loss record of the local sports teams, team losses should be downright scary, not just disappointing, to the families of those affected fans as well as strangers who must share a road as those fans drive home and those shopkeepers and employees who must deal with them in convenience stores after the game.
Normal people, of course, didn’t need psychological laboratory research to tell them that when the home town team losses a big game, things on the street could get ugly: All that was needed to convince them was a quick look at the rioting and burning cars in the aftermath. But those denialists and oppositionalists, pretending to claim a higher purpose, want more “evidence” than what they see with their own eyes. And psychologists, God love ‘em, always take the bait and want to show “results” in a laboratory.
Without available funding, however, research dries up. And what organization would pay to fund research into their own institutional violence?
Which brings us back to the NFL – actually, to the individual owners of sports teams in the NFL. The NFL is already a big, naturalistic laboratory of human behavior and some of the results have been on display the past several weeks: domestic violence, child abuse, distorted bible teachings, economic blackmail and censorship, just to mention a few of the observable findings from the NFL laboratories. And could any of that behavior have been possible without it being reinforced and perpetuated with either the active support, or at least the benign negligence, of the individual NFL team owners and their failure to appropriately supervise the duties of their own staffs and the NFL Commissioner?
Psychology suggests an answer: No.
After all, how smart do you have to be to realize that punching someone in the face or hitting a child with a stick are just plain wrong? How could a billionaire team owner – or, even worse, his wife or kids – not realize this? And what is going on in the mind of those who attempt to distort or rationalize such behavior under the guise of religion or culture or upbringing?
Well, thankfully, it turns out we finally have a strong advocate for psychology research and rational behavior: Big Business.
That is correct.
Our society seems to have evolved to the point that Big Business – Big Business, of all things! – is uniquely imbued with the moral authority and persuasive ability to convince the NFL and team ownership of the basic psychological knowledge that hitting people, threatening them and humiliating them are not, repeat not, appropriate methods of disciplining children or resolving conflict between men and women. It seems like somebody has been paying attention to psychology after all.
But don’t listen to the child psychologists. Don’t bother with laboratory research. Ignore the complaints of family advocacy groups. Forget District Attorneys and law enforcement. Just follow the money. Because it’s the big advertising dollars and the fear of lost consumer revenue that seem to ensure that the NFL and team ownership take responsibility for off-field violence.
Now we’ve seen it all.
Michael Abruzzese, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist on Cape Cod and a former Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of Ten Lessons in Power Psychology; Psychology Tips and Techniques For People Who Would Never Visit a Psychologist’s Office. https://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Power-Psychology-Techniques-Pscychologists/dp/0991011708