The NFL's Problems: Not Just Violence

The NFL shuts out the average person

Posted Sep 24, 2014

Stories of physical abuse rock the NFL. Late to acknowledge the extent of head injuries in the league (1 in 3 will suffer from the effects of head concussions during their lifetimes), professional football has been embarrassed by two star players using their muscle off the field: Ray Rice punched his girlfriend hard in the face and Adrian Peterson produced cuts and bruises on his son.

The NFL stories are high-profile because the players are news makers as athletes, but the sad truth is that violence in the family is widespread in society. One in six women will be a victim of sexual assault. The violence cuts across racial lines: 17.6 % of white women will experience rape or attempted rape, while 18.8% of black women and nearly 25% of mixed race women will.

Children suffer at great rates, too. Three million reports of child abuse are made each year. More than four children a day die from abuse and neglect, making the US one of the worst offenders in the industrial world.

There is another NFL statistic that hasn’t received much attention but one that also reveals a deep social problem. Ticket prices reveal the economic gap between the wealthy and the rest of society.

The average face value of a NFL game ticket is $84.43, up $3 from last year. This doesn’t mean that a fan will pay the asking price. Tickets are aggregated and resold on eBay and elsewhere, so that many are forced to buy from one of the sites, not at the stadium. So if you are a Detroit Lions fan, where tickets are amongst the least expensive in the NFL, the face value is $72.82. The resale average is $148.58. If you want to attend a game, you will pay, on average, nearly $150 per ticket. The lowest ticket resale value was $70; the highest ticket went for $800.

Few go to a game without buying something else. There is beer and soda, hot dogs, parking, programs and caps. The estimate is that to take a family of four to a Lions game costs an average of $411.94, up $10 from last year.

So who is going to the games? Certainly not the typical Detroit families, a city with a household median income of $26,000 and where one out of three residents and more than half the children live in poverty.

There is something wrong with America’s most popular spectator sport and it isn’t simply the behavior of the players, on and off the field. The NFL is driven by huge profits and the news stories about the league reveal the deeply troubling underside of American society.