Is the NFL rigged?


Fact Box

  • The National Football League (NFL) was founded in 1920 in Canton, Ohio, under the starter teams from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Michigan. Now, the league comprises 32 teams.  
  • The first Superbowl featured the Greenbay Packers facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs on January 15, 1967, with the Packers winning 35-10. 
  • Claims that the NFL is ‘rigged’ usually point to last-minute rule-changing, officiating where controversial calls render questionable game outcomes, and game-changing plays.
  • The Chiefs' 17-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on January 28, 2024, guaranteed them a spot in the 2024 Super Bowl, sparking renewed accusations that the NFL was ‘rigged’. Baltimore Ravens fans claimed the NFL was ‘rigged’ because of missed penalties on the Chief’s side. One fan argued the “Chiefs were HANDED this game!” 
  • The Chiefs gained notoriety when pop star Taylor Swift spiked NFL viewership, earning $331.5 million since going public with her relationship with the Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce. But after the Chiefs lost four of the six games that Swift attended, Sports Illustrated questioned in December 2023 if she was truly a 'curse' on the team.

Mark (No)

Not only is it improbable that the NFL could be 'rigged,' it's impossible. The NFL has thousands of employees working for them, not limited to just players and coaches. If there were any official deceptive practices or efforts to rig the NFL, someone would have certainly talked by now. There are 22 athletes on the field at once, 11 per team. To entertain the idea of orchestrating a win and lose before a game with literally so many moving parts even begins would be an exercise in futility. 

When asked if the NFL was rigged, legendary quarterback Tom Brady said, 'Do you think I would lose to Eli Manning?' It's an amusing response and a bit of a shot at Eli, but it makes a great point. Competitive tendencies drive football players, so asking them to lose on purpose would be catastrophic to their principles when playing the game as well as to the NFL. Unlike pro wrestling, a scripted “sports” genre where the most popular stars are pushed to the top, what teams win and what teams lose is of zero importance to the NFL. Their revenue is driven by advertisers and sponsorship, so they would have nothing to gain by fixing the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most popular teams in the NFL, yet they haven't gone to the Super Bowl in decades. The NFL is displayed on HDTV every week for several months a year; they would be under a virtual microscope, and attempting to fix the game would be more than obvious. The NFL is a national institution, and trying to deceive their ardent supporters is a fumble they simply wouldn't make.

Rob (Yes)

The NFL is rigged, erasing the integrity of football unless serious changes are made fast. While there's no conclusive evidence of this, the 'coincidences' are just too much to ignore. The NFL is a billion-dollar industry, and with that kind of money on the line, there's bound to be corruption. For example, during the January 2024 Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers game, the Detroit Lions players mysteriously fumbled in the fourth quarter, dropping every ball. And when the score was 27-24, they also missed a field goal attempt that would have tied the score. It's almost as if they had to stick to the script and lose the game on purpose, and fans decried it as ‘rigging.’ Officiating is another big problem. Look at these calls and this one from the Chiefs-Raven game, for instance. A correct call on the clear missed pass interferences could have changed the outcome of the game. It's almost like the league sponsors are deliberately trying to manipulate the playoff matchups to create a more compelling storyline for the Super Bowl. Incorrect calls, which ‘rig’ the win in favor of one team over another, reasonably spark outrage among fans of the ‘losing’ team.

It’s possible the league is trying to ensure the Chiefs and, therefore, Travis Kelce make it to the Super Bowl, presumably capitalizing on his timely romance with Taylor Swift. The Ravens demonstrated a weak offense and could have lost the game entirely on their own, but the referee's poor calls didn't help matters either. It's not surprising that the Chiefs are getting calls in their favor, considering they now have Taylor Swift and her army of fans on their side. The Swifties are notoriously zealous of their superstar that perhaps not even the NFL dare upset them.

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