It is useful, if reliably a little disheartening, to know that every scandalous story about the NFL’s buttheaded bigotry and grinding cynicism and general vile corporate behavior unfolds more or less along the same predictable series of beats. The initial thing looks bad, and then reliably turns out actually to be exactly that bad or worse. Various bass-heavy concerned sounds issue from the appropriate executive orifices right around when you’d expect them to. There is the customary display of umbrage. The most expensive possible law firm is commissioned by the league for some kind of investigation, which will culminate in some kind of report. The idea is that it will all be handled discreetly and in-house, and while the former is literally never true, the latter pretty much always is. The NFL is very rich and very stupid, and one attribute that this rich and stupid institution shares with rich and stupid individuals is a willingness to pay any price and bear any burden to ensure that it will be able to continue doing exactly as it pleases, for as long as it possibly can. Every one of its scandals resolves without really resolving; the whole point, and the whole reason to fight as hard and spend as big as the NFL does whenever confronted in public with any act of institutional monstrousness, is that changing is only and can only ever be a defeat.
Brian Flores’s blockbuster discrimination lawsuit against the NFL is both a breezy and disgusting read, and none of the indignities to which he was subjected as a coach and a candidate by the NFL’s endless tiers of executive mediocrities and sociopathic plutocrats is remotely difficult to believe. But, knowing what we know about how these sorts of stories go, it is hard not to revert to the meta-level reading of it all. If it is easy to believe all of this, it is also very difficult to believe that any of it will lead to any kind of positive change. To discuss this, both as what it is and what it might maybe possibly but probably not someday become, Drew and I welcomed our resident expert in football-adjacent institutional shittiness to the podcast.
That conversation sprawled to nearly the entire length of the podcast, and if I hadn’t already used the phrase “breezy and disgusting” above I might be tempted to describe the conversation as both breezy and disgusted. There is a great deal of “now I’m not a lawyer” qualification involved—this kind of I’m-just-talking-here stuff is a little more stressful when you know that your audience is 83 percent attorneys—but you don’t really need to be an attorney to have some sense of how this all might go. Diana’s knowledge of NFL odiousness remains the industry standard, and she did a good job of keeping Drew and I in our lanes whenever we threatened to forget what we were talking about.
If you know how the NFL is and how it works, you know that Brian Flores is making accusations that rhyme with the league’s general modus operandi. If you know how the NFL has responded to this sort of thing in the past, you know how the NFL will likely respond to it in the future. The question to which we kept returning is whether it might be different—not whether any of this was true, but whether any of it might somehow be made to change. I will not spoil the conclusion for you, but if you know how this goes, you probably already know where we landed.
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