The Bloodied NFL Shield

The season hasn’t exactly gotten off to a roaring start for the National Football League. With the release of the infamous Ray Rice elevator video, questions about whether the NFL properly investigated the Rice incident and treated other domestic violence incidents with the seriousness, concern and respect they deserve, and more recently the disclosures about Adrian Peterson’s treatment of his son, the NFL has been battered by bad news.

And now the unthinkable has happened: advertisers like McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, and Visa, that previously lined up and paid through the nose to associate themselves with the NFL’s familiar red, white, and blue shield logo, are expressing concern about the League. Nothing is more certain to get the attention of the marketing-driven, multimillionaire NFL owners than the possible loss of ad revenue.

It’s got to be a shock to the NFL, which for years has enjoyed bulletproof status as the most popular sport in America, with a Commissioner ranked as the most powerful figure in sports. Maybe the NFL had a bit of hubris about its position in American society, or maybe it figured that the advertisers, fans, and Super Bowl viewers who love to watch huge men crashing into each other with bone-jarring violence on Sunday afternoon wouldn’t be too troubled by if some of those huge men occasionally engaged in a little domestic violence on the side.

This time, the NFL figured wrong. For every fan who wears a Ray Rice jersey as a sign of support for a guy who cold-cocked his now-wife in a casino, there are countless others, male and female, who are starting to wonder: who are these guys, really? And, more troubling, what has the NFL done to shield them from the consequences of their actions?

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