The NFL Is an Internet Troll

Illustration for article titled The NFL Is an Internet Troll
Photo: Rob Carr (Getty Images)

I did not realize it was Memorial Day weekend until two hours ago, when the server at the restaurant where I ate breakfast asked if I had any holiday plans.


“Oh yeah,” I thought to myself, while finishing the last strip of bacon and bite of egg (fried over hard) on my plate. “I guess that’s a thing that’s happening soon.”

“Perhaps I’ll grill some meat,” I finally replied, in a (failed) effort to replicate what human people say when asked that question.

Forgetting holidays is not a thing that is particularly new to me. I’m tempted to blame this on my nontraditional means of employment. I haven’t worked in an office in over a decade, so things like “off days” and “weekends” and “vacations” and “being aware of other people” don’t resonate with me the same way they would if I did.

As sufficient a reason as this might seem, it doesn’t explain that forgetting appointment dates, holidays and birthdays—including my own once—has been a thing my entire life. I’m doing better now, though. I even downloaded the Google Calendar app on my phone, and I manage some weeks to remember it’s there. (Next step? Actually putting dates in it.)

Anyway, if you were following the news this week, you might have experienced a similar date-based vertigo. It is near the end of May, a month after the draft and months before training camp, and an NFL-related story is the sports world’s biggest one. In a bizarre attempt to appease the people who pretended to be so offended by the anthem-related protests that they pretended to boycott the NFL—a population that includes our president—the NFL decided to craft a shitty and self-immolating answer to a question no one was asking.

If they had decided to do and say nothing—like, literally nothing—then a few players would have still protested, a few fans would have still rained Budweiser-scented boos on the field and a few fans would have continued to boycott in solidarity with the players, but that would have been that. Instead, they decided to do a thing that is forcing people to react. Releasing their new anthem policy in the dead of fucking May is like getting into an argument about socks with a guy at the bar, agreeing to disagree and then, three hours later, adding, “And that’s why yo’ mama a bitch!”


Of course, the NFL’s craven need to kowtow to the lowest common denominator definitely matters here. But the league also possesses an equally ugly compulsion to always be a thing that people are talking about and reacting to. It’s the same congelation of narcissism and sociopathy owned by (again) our president and at least several of the people who will appear in the comments attached to this post. The organization as a whole functions and thrives as a well-oiled troll.

Earlier today, I read a piece from the Washington Post’s Karen Attiah suggesting that a total cancellation of the league isn’t just right but inevitable. I’ve been searching—not just today but for a couple of years now—for a hole in that argument. But besides the dozen or so new black millionaires it produces every year and whichever emotional and/or nostalgic attachments we might have to it, I can’t think of a compelling reason that the NFL should even still exist, while I can list several reasons it shouldn’t.


The NFL provides no inherent social good that can’t be replicated elsewhere; it literally threatens (and shortens) the lives of its participants; and it conjures opportunities to remind us—and “us” is “anyone who isn’t a straight white male”—that it gives no shits about us. Calling it an internet troll might actually be too kind. It’s a fucking cigarette.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



I mean professional football is a soon to be dead sport anyway right? Even if young mean continue to want to play football the sheer liability of a sport that causes permanent damage and long term chronic health condition’s to it’s participants is going to kill it. What insurance company wants to insure a football player? What schools or leagues are going to keep taking on the liability? At the rate the NFL burns through players (I read the average length of an NFL career is 3 years) the talent pool is going to start drying up.