Congress and the National Football League

From OpenCongress Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Modern professional sports leagues in the U.S. qualify as "interstate commerce" and are therefore able to be regulated by Congress. The National Football League (NFL) is one of many leagues for which Congress has been involved. In 2005, for example, citing the increased visibility of steroid use and its effects on amateur and high school sports, the industry found itself the target of a congressional investigation. Members of Congress have also been known to criticize or directly contact the league with the intention of modifying its behavior.


House investigates NFL pension and disability plans in 2007

Following months of complaints from retired players and significant press attention, the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law held hearings on the NFL's pension and disability plans, and examined both the plans themselves and their management.[1] Former Minnesota Vikings guard Brent Boyd testified that in spite of a head injury that left him unable to work, he was turned down for compensation and coverage on multiple occasions. Players and their attorneys argued that their claims are stalled for long periods of time, and are often denied with little to no explanation. They accused the NFL Players Association, the group tasked with working for players' rights, of failing in its duties.[2]

Investigations of steroid use in the National Football League

In 2005, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began investigating steroid use in the NFL. The committee specifically requested that the NFL turn over documentation of its 15-year drug screening program, including information on how many players had used illegal drugs and which drugs had been used. The committee did not, however, request the names of players who had tested positive for drug use.[3]


Two main pieces of legislation came out of these hearings; the Clean Sports Act of 2005, and the Drug Free Sports Act of 2005. Both of these measures ware based on the 'Olympic model' of drug testing and would apply to National Football league (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (NLB).[4]

Neither bill ultimately became law.[5]

Letters to the National Football League (NFL) commissioner

Rep. Tom Tancredo

In February 2007, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) criticized NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for not running a Border Control advertisement during the Super Bowl. The NFL responded with a statement, "The reason [the ad wasn't included] was the language didn't fit in with the lighthearted tone of the program." The Ad contained the following: "It'll be your responsibility to prevent the entry of terrorists and their weapons into the United States". [6]

Rep. Tom Lantos

In May 2007, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, urging him to rebuke Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick. The police raided a Virginia farm owned by Vick and found 60 malnourished and injured dogs, as well as a garage which appears to be where "dog fights occurred." In his letter, Lantos was quoted as saying,

"Your strong rebuke of dog fighting – and those who promote it – will send the message that this all-too-prevalent practice has no place in a civilized society. I will view anything less than the strongest repudiation of Mr. Vick’s involvement as tacit support for this atrocious activity."[7]

Rep. John Conyers

In October 2007, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) sent a letter to the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association, suggesting that there is a need to fix the system of bringing disability benefits to former NFL players. In his letter, he said,

"Several members of the committee have suggested that Congress should intervene to fix what has been described as a broken system of delivering disability benefits to former NFL players."[8]

Articles and resources

See also


  1. Les Carpenter, "NFL Disability Plan Draws Congressional Attention," Washington Post, June 26, 2007.
  2. Les Carpenter, "NFL Disability Plan Draws Congressional Attention," Washington Post, June 26, 2007.
  3. Lance Williams, Mark Fainaru-Wada, Chronicle Staff Writers, "House steroid panel sets new target: NFL," San Fransisco Chronicle, April 1, 2005.
  4. Associated Press, "House committee moves steroid bill along Reform Committee makes no changes, approves Clean Sports Ac" Baltimore Sun, May 26, 2005.
  5. Associated Press, "House committee moves steroid bill along Reform Committee makes no changes, approves Clean Sports Ac" Baltimore Sun, May 26, 2005.
  6. Jeremy Jacobs, "Tancredo criticizes NFL for omitting Border Patrol ad," The Hill, February 16, 2007.
  7. Jeremy Jacobs, "Lantos urges NFL to condemn Vick over dog fighting", The Hill May 19, 2007.
  8. Jesse J. Holland,"Lawmakers Pressing Pro Football Issues", Associated Press Oct 12, 2007.

External resources

External articles