As the NFL begins a new season this weekend, America will celebrate the sport not just as a wonderful national pastime, but also as a prime example of progressive policies in action. We’ve cataloged seven unique ways in which the NFL is strengthened by its progressive approach to the sport, including equality, fairness, and diversity:
1. Revenue sharing: Fifty years ago, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle set the NFL on a strong progressive path by implementing a system of revenue sharing between the teams. In essence, revenue from the league’s massive TV and radio contracts is divided evenly amongst the 32 NFL teams today. As a result, smaller market teams like the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings are able to stay competitive with big market teams like the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
2. Salary cap: The NFL currently sets a team salary cap at $120 million. This prevents teams with wealthy owners from simply purchasing all the best players in the league, as the New York Yankees have done in Major League Baseball. As a result of the salary cap, the NFL enjoys much more equality, competition, and fairness than it would if owners were permitted to field teams with as high a salary as they pleased.
3. Strong unions: One primary reason there was an extended lockout during the offseason was because NFL players enjoy a strong union that did not back down in the face of new demands from the owners. Indeed, over the past few decades, the National Football League Players Association has used collective bargaining to win such concessions from owners as free agency, pension and health care improvements, and minimum salaries.
4. Affirmative action: Since 2003, the NFL has enforced the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching vacancies. The impact has been undeniable; the percentage of minority coaches increased from 6 percent to 22 percent over the past eight years. Among these new leaders are some of the most successful coaches in the league, including Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, both of whom who have taken their teams to the Super Bowl.
5. Progressive draft system: At the end of every season, the league awards the first pick in next year’s draft to the team with the worst record, followed by the second worst, and so on. By taking a progressive approach to the distribution of draft picks, the NFL fosters competitiveness and parity among the teams. This has allowed teams like the 2008 Atlanta Falcons to make the playoffs under the leadership of a star rookie one year after having the third worst record in the league.
6. Schedule equalizing: Just as the worst-performing teams are given a boost in the draft, so too are the following year’s schedules tweaked to improve equality. In other words, the better a team does in one season, the more difficult their schedule will be the following season. This focus on equality makes the NFL far more exciting than a league dominated by a static group of elite teams.
7. Socialistic Super Bowl champions: Last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers, are a socialist organization. Rather than being controlled by a single owner like the 31 other teams, the Packers are owned by the community — 112,158 shareholders to be precise. (This is what an owners meeting looks like.) The team is a nonprofit and has rules in place to prevent any individuals from taking control of the franchise. Were the Packers controlled by a single owner, it’s unlikely they would still play in Green Bay, the smallest hometown of any NFL team, particularly while a vacancy in the highly profitable Los Angeles market exists. It’s no stretch to say that socialism saved the Green Bay Packers.