Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Kevin I. Minor

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


The subject of sport and leisure is prominently unchartered territory within criminology. The National Football League provides a unique opportunity for scholarly exploration as the sport is predicated on violence and preserves existing systems of inequality. Stemming from the defining late modern characteristics of risk management and actuarial justice, the topics of injury and harm within the sport have been brought to light by lawsuits against the league claiming that the corporation knew of the dangers of mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) and actively attempted to subvert this knowledge. This paper employs an amalgamation of theories and research to comprehensively clarify and examine the controversies surrounding the National Football League and their societal implications. This examination illuminates issues of mental, physical, and overarching social harm inflicted by the corporation while accounting for the necessity to balance the tension between violence and social sentiments. The theoretical works of Pierre Bourdieu, Loic Wacquant, Norbert Elias, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Harry Braverman employed in order to explain the dynamic and tentative relationship between power, profit and culture within the socioeconomic and political climate of contemporary society. In addition, this thesis features an inquiry and legalistic review of the role of violence within leisure activities, along with an analysis of the NFL's history and current methods of obtaining profitability. There are numerous tensions at play that have spawned from historical contradictions within the economic order of capitalism. These issues have been exacerbated by the birth and development of the logics of neoliberalism and the characteristics of late modernity. The paper aims to account for the social, cultural, and symbolic significance of the National Football League and its role in placating the masses while perpetuating systems of disparity that define neoliberal capitalistic society. The exploration of this topic is navigated by the creation of a heuristic model that functions to simplify the complex relationships between diverse sociopolitical variables. The NFL must secure and expand modes of profit surrounding football while simultaneously managing cultural sentiments by assuaging apprehension and downplaying concerns surrounding an inherently dangerous sport. The alternative is to risk fading out of public grace and falling into mediocrity and cultural irrelevance.