NFL Doubles Down on Politics with Endorsement of Prison Reform Bill

The National Football League seeks to double down on politics despite the bad hand of anthem kneelers resulting in fans becoming boo-birds.

The league recently formally endorsed the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the legislation, thwarted in earlier incarnations, earlier this month. A diverse lot including Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) support the measure.

“We felt that this was an issue over the last months, as we have continued to work with our players on issues of equality and on issues of criminal justice reform, that was surfaced for us, and we thought it was appropriate to lend our support to it,” Joe Lockhart, the former spokesman for President Bill Clinton who now performs a similar role for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, informed reporters in acknowledging the league’s support for the bill on a media conference call.

The bill changes life sentences for three-time drug felons to 25-year terms, amends the Controlled Substances Act to impose a mandatory minimum of five years rather than ten, and seeks alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders, such as home confinement. It tasks the attorney general with creating “a strategic plan for the expansion of recidivism reduction programming and productive activities.”

The bill applies to the small percentage of inmates in federal prisons and not to those sentenced in state courts.

Though the legislation enjoys support that defies ideological categorization, the NFL’s decision to delve into politics of any kind after its players doing so damaged the league’s brand and tarnished its shield puzzles many.

Despite looking to move on from national anthem kneelers and corral back disgusted fans, the NFL, this time willingly, tethers itself to a political issue completely unrelated to football, perhaps as the owners’ quid to the pros’ quo of ceasing the money-draining sideline pregame protests. The league announced the endorsement of the act on Monday. On Tuesday, owners and players meet to discuss the protests.

Attempts to inject politics into the playing field resulted in massive numbers of fans clicking away or off on Sunday afternoons over the last two seasons. Credit Suisse cited tanking NFL ratings for lowering its earnings expectations for CBS on Monday. Earlier this month, the Wall Street outfit similarly pointed to “weak” football ratings as the reason for revising downward a forecast of earnings for Twenty-First Century Fox.


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