The NFL brand took a hit during the worst possible time: female propitiation month. Outcry over the league’s tepid response to the elevator knock out game and Southern-style switch hitting forced a disciplinary do-over.
To insulate the brand from negative publicity, more pink appeared on the sidelines, #NOMORE launched on Twitter and Roger Goodell lengthened suspensions. To do its part, ESPN aired a redemptive tale of spousal abuse – Warren Moon: A Football Life.
The NFL-produced documentary characterizes Moon as the embodiment of talent, victimhood and pride.
Young Warren assumes the role of head of the family after his father’s passing. A sense of duty becomes entrenched in his psyche. Family members start referring to him as “Pops.”
Warren becomes tight, rigid. His one escape is football. He dreams of becoming the first black quarterback in a time when black players primarily played running back or right guard. He often retreats to the kitchen where he bakes cookies; his way of combating disappointment and setbacks.
He excels at West L.A., then at the University of Washington. Warren, scorned, having gone undrafted by the NFL, signs with the Canadian Football League. As quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos, he passes for 21,228 yards and scores 144 touchdowns.
After six years of playing in the CFL, Moon gets his opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL. The Houston Oilers entice Moon to play for them; signing on his former Edmonton coach to sweeten the deal.
Faced with the daily onslaught of hate from racist fans, Moon once again retreats to his kitchen to bake cookies. This time he takes his cookie baking from catharsis to franchise.
One day the pressure becomes too much. The housekeeper hears screams from the Moon’s bedroom. The housekeeper sees Moon’s hands clasped around his wife’s throat. He pleads with his wife, “You’ve gotta calm down.”
Moon’s side of the story remains the same 18 years later. “I was just trying to calm her down.”
NFL producers paint this as a one-time incident. It is inferred that the racism of the Houston Oilers fans incited this otherwise non-violent person to violence.
Screen credits roll as Moon is seen baking cookies with his son.
To this day Felicia Moon defends her ex-husband and blames herself.
Brand protection apparently allows for criminal behavior and absolution. A publicity campaign or two is supposed to excuse the presence of a wife beater calling play-by-play, a rapist playing quarterback and murderer providing halftime analysis. A remorseful interview is supposed to erase our memory of dog fighting.
With its own propaganda studio at its disposal, NFL Films tries to fictionalize facts and redeem its worst sinners. If the NFL was truly serious about abuse, felons would not be allowed to grace the sidelines or run the field.
Like the double reverse, players are too fast to fall for that old trick anymore. Likewise, fans, particularly female fans, aren’t going to fall for trick plays and redirection either.