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Former NFL Player Says Politics Will Continue to Haunt the League

Let's face it: the National Football League has had its share of controversy the past couple of years. The player protests over the national anthem and the looming specter of middling quarterback turned political lightning rod Colin Kaepernick have damaged the league in the eyes of many.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell thought he could quell some of the brouhaha by issuing a blanket policy banning 0n-field protests, but that act just stirred the hornet's nest further.

The league may have hurt itself by wading into political waters. A recent poll shows that even some of the NFL's hardcore fans are losing interest. One former Super Bowl champion even went on Fox Business this week to express his belief that the NFL's problems with protests are just beginning.

Burgess Owens, who played in the league for ten years and won a Super Bowl with the New York Jets in 1980, told Fox's Stuart Varney that he believes the coming season and beyond hold problems for the NFL. “This is about a global reach,” Owens said on Monday. “It’s about a corporation that understands that they need to get past the American market.”

Owens believes that the league has forced itself to "demean the NFL brand” by allowing politics to divide and frustrate fans. “This is the worst of the leftist,” he said. “They can care less about patriotism … our country – they care about their profits.”

Certainly the NFL has damaged its reputation as an all-American sport in the eyes of so many people. I encounter folks on a regular basis who say they will never watch the NFL again — and they take their grievances to social media. Television ratings have dropped for the league as well, and that's one of the ways politics can affect the bottom line.

But are the anthem protests the only problem the NFL is dealing with? Not by a long shot.

One of the biggest issues with the league outside of politics is the problem of concussions and the long-term effects they bring. Last week I wrote about how concussion fears have affected college football, and the NFL isn't much different.

Player safety should be paramount, and fans should never sacrifice the well-being of the players for the enjoyment of the game. Rule changes are making a difference, but they can only go so far. The NFL must also be willing to seek out and adopt new technology to protect players. On the same note, corporations should be willing to help develop solutions. We're a modern, capitalist society, and our marketplace should be able to provide the solution that improves and saves lives.

Restlessness and dissatisfaction among NFL owners isn't helping the league. Owners have expressed their grievances with Goodell, as Andrew Brandt of Sports Illustrated reported back in November: