After the NFL's historically ugly week, it's tough to care about Week 6

The NFL got what it needed: Sunday.

After a week in which the public started to really see what the league is, to get a glimpse of just how slimy its underbelly truly is, it needed Sunday.

Because once Sunday arrived, enough fans who may have been mildly appalled at the racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, exploitation, and the NFL's lead counsel doing favors for the president of at least one team, turned their attention to the games.

They may have even gotten an early start consuming the league's product, those who were masochistic enough to endure Jaguars-Dolphins from London. There were fantasy teams to follow and wagers to make, and just the seemingly insatiable desire so many have to tune in.

Some of those people might not have been appalled at all, so they wanted Sunday to arrive so they could have their games, have their respite. There were fans last year hollering that NFL players and other athletes had to play games to entertain them during COVID lockdowns; it's highly unlikely the contents of the emails we've seen even moved them.

In a better world, they would be a small minority. Reality tells us they aren't.

Reality tells us the NFL's power brokers are among them.

Individuals in the highest reaches of the country's most profitable sports league being racist isn't really news, not to anyone paying attention. This country is so accepting of anti-Black sentiment that Jon Gruden was still allowed to coach last Sunday after the report of his racist email to then-Washington executive Bruce Allen disparaging NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith's intelligence and appearance in truly 1920s fashion.

It wasn't until more of Gruden's emails were made public — the ones where he circulated semi-nude photos of Washington cheerleaders, expressed disgust with the NFL hiring the first female official in its history as well as the drafting of an openly gay player, and went after commissioner Roger Goodell using an anti-gay slur for the crime of trying to protect players from traumatic brain injury — that he got to resign, once again showing the privilege of being a white man in the NFL, getting to dictate his own departure.

NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash was revealed in email leaks to have written some pretty hideous sentiments. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash was revealed in email leaks to have written some pretty hideous sentiments. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Then things got worse, or at least should have, for the league and its vaunted shield. On Thursday night, the New York Times published emails between Allen, the Washington Football Team president, and Jeff Pash, NFL lead counsel, in which Pash made a nominal fine handed down to Allen's team for lying on the injury report disappear, waved off the growing allegations of workplace toxicity in Washington, expressed anger over the NFL hiring a Black woman to be a league lobbyist on Capitol Hill, and yukked it up over Allen trying to cut a player's salary.

Pash, one of the most powerful people in league offices, still has a job as of this writing. The NFL has even defended Pash's interactions with Allen.

On Friday, the Associated Press published a story citing a source "familiar with the investigation" who claimed none of the other 650,000 emails under review as an extension of that deep dive into Washington's workplace culture contain the kind of bigotry expressed by Gruden and Allen.

To which we say: Bull. Crap.

Writ large, given the emails we have seen and the other things we know, there is no doubt that there are more emails showing how the league's decision makers really feel.

It is their — meaning white men of means — league, and they are loathe to let anyone who isn't into their league. Bringing even one person into the fold that isn't one of them is unacceptable. Allen groused about having to even interview non-white candidates for head coaching positions.

But Sunday came, which is all the NFL needed. Too many media outlets, some of them in bed with the league and profiting off the games, will do just what it hopes and by Sunday night won't mention the week where the league was revealed for what it truly is, will spend Monday happily rehashing highlights from Week 6 games.

Some of us are still appalled. Some of us hope whoever is slowly leaking these emails keeps going. Some of us are still angered by what's happened, the league's cowardice in continuing to protect men of ill will, disgusted that it is 2021 and in too many corners, including a league that would not be the multi-billion juggernaut that it is without the talents of Black athletes, the buffet of bigotry we saw still exists and in some ways is celebrated.

Some of us skipped this Sunday's games.