DeBartolo’s call for “family” underscores ongoing issues for NFL

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Enshrinement Weekend at the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a chance for football to be at its best.

But during his induction speech Saturday night, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. also offered a challenge, underlining one of the biggest problems the game faces today.

DeBartolo has been hailed for the above-and-beyond way he took care of his players and other employees in times of crisis, but said he didn’t always see the same commitment in the modern game.

“Frankly, I think we could use a little bit more of that sense of family in the NFL today, DeBartolo said. “I think we could use a little bit more of that sense of duty to one another and that sense of responsibility for one another. I know that’s what my good friend the commissioner and the players union desperately want and are trying to do today.

“Make no mistake, history has its eyes on all of us right now. It’s about the respect and gratitude we feel for these athletes who have given their all to this game. We’ve got to do all we can to look after one another and take care of one another, not just when the uniform is on, but when the uniform comes off, too.”

For several years, the ice between the league and the NFLPA has been hard to crack, with each side dug into intractable positions. But for any of the bigger issues to be solved, there will have to be a thaw that we’ve seen few signs of.

At the Hall of Fame (which operates independently¬†of, yet still in close cooperation with the NFL), it’s easy to see the message they want to present. A new exhibit featuring a holographic Joe Namath hits on all the lessons the game wants to promote, such as commitment, sacrifice for the greater good and things coaches like to talk about during halftime speeches. And when former Army Reservist such as Kevin Greene finishes his passionate speech by thanking the military and saluting, it’s the kind of packaging the powers that be can’t get enough of.

But as DeBartolo underscored, some of the problems the league is dealing with can’t be changed with just talk, but a true commitment to the principles they’re selling. Saying football is family is easy. Making that bond real will be harder.

31 responses to “DeBartolo’s call for “family” underscores ongoing issues for NFL

  1. Eddie loved his players and appreciated all they did for his team and the city.

    That type of owner is rare these days and he’s highlighted one of the key problems with the NFL.

  2. eddie needs too own a team again
    point blank!!!!

  3. Eddie is slime, a disgraced old fool, with an immoral rap sheet that goes on forever. He’s a disingenuous fraud who used the HOF to try and rewrite his own history with a cleverly worded speech, written by someone else.

  4. Just wait to De Bartolio reads Benjamin Watson’s recent comments on Planned Parenthood. Only then will he understand the true meaning of family…


  5. You have to be a human, with feelings and empathy to be a family. Attributes that are foreign to Goodell.

  6. That ship has sailed 75% of the players in this league now are punk clowns thinking wearing a tee shirt for a cause is like flying a bombing mission

  7. All talk. No walk. Nothing will change until the fans stop tuning in every week. But, that’ll never happen, because football fans love to shout about how they loathe the owners and Goodell while they simultaneously contribute to ratings every week. #nothingwillchange

  8. Eddie is dearly missed by all 49er fans. Jed York doesn’t have a clue how to turn it around. The importance of a smart owner is underestimated by most fans who fixate on the players. The success enjoyed by the Patriots isn’t just Belichick and Brady, part of the equation includes Mr Kraft and his skill in making the big decisions.
    Eddie DeBartolo has better leadership skills than 80% of the current NFL owners and he could revive San Francisco if someone would listen. Return the team to it’s rightful owner and excellence!

  9. chuckshontaspads says:
    Aug 7, 2016 12:15 PM
    You have to be a human, with feelings and empathy to be a family. Attributes that are foreign to Goodell


    Leave it up to the whiny Patriots fans to take something that is about owners (including and especially Robert Kraft) and make it about the commissioner.
    You clowns keep talking but all I hear is waaaahhhhhh

  10. I’m sure respect for athletes doesn’t include lying to the world about PSI levels of footballs, or denying that science caused PSI levels to drop not human tampering.
    Or suspending a player despite admitting in federal court that you had no evidence .
    Goodell must go.

  11. Family ? Is this crackpot out of his mind ? Sure. I wish my “family ” owned an Nfl team with Bill Walsh and Joe Montana so I could be in the hall of fame too

    Family. What a jerk. There’s owners coaches players and fans – no family.

    Your family wouldn’t hide concussion evidence for years to keep the gravy train rolling

  12. When you sit on the couch all day and night on a Sunday watching NFL football the games are really all cookie cutter what we are really tuning in and watching now is what lengths will millionaires go to too be singled out and noticed to build their brand ! It’s actually very amusing to watch these guys be self centered all eyes on me,, tweeting fools while I wipe up some hot wings !

  13. Eddie D’s speech was all class. There are a few NFL owners who embrace the values Eddie was talking about but the vast majority don’t. This isn’t something an NFL owner can just start doing because it has to be authentic and something they themselves believe in. Some people were just raised with this life philosophy and it’s ingrained in them.

  14. The Rooneys, Maras, Krafts, Debartolos (Yorks not included). 14 championships since 1974, with qbs Bradshaw, Montana, Sims, Young, Brady, Rothlisberger, Manning. Yeah….Family business >Corporate business.

  15. Any of this family talk falls on deaf ears with Goodell and his corrupt mob. Nice message from Eddie..class guy. Unfortunately wasting his time trying to preach this stuff to the buffoons running the NFL.

  16. Musings on “Family” from a Youngstown “Mob Family” guy…!!! Here’s a guy that had his ownership taken from him because of a crime he committed, now he’s in the hall of fame! And Pete Rose is still………………

  17. Family does not resonate with Goodell.
    Scummy owners like Jerry Jones, Woody Johnson, players that belong in jail, societal misfits masquerading as players, usually on the defensive side.
    These areas had better get cleaned up.
    Social media has shown its ugly head as well.
    Goodell has shown incompetence and it keeps getting worse.

  18. Paternalistic owners would not mesh well with mercenary players. You can’t have it both ways.

    For better or worse – and I think it’s better – Curt Flood’s lawsuit was the beginning of the end to the “family” model in pro sports. Some aspects of that model were very positive, but it just doesn’t work anymore except in a few cases.

  19. I love how all the “brains” in here are acting like DeBartolo sent some goons to the NFL & HoF & forced this to happen. It was something bestowed upon him by his peers. Peers who are well aware of his shortcomings & well aware of his achievements.

    At the end of the day they acknowledge that the positive impact well outweighs the negative, enough so that he is in the Hall of Fame. Absolutely he has made mistakes, have you not? But he also has done great things for the game and the way his former employees speak of him confirms that. Cry all you want, but it’s obvious he’s impacted (& still does impact) many lives in a positive manner. Can you say the same?

  20. The NFL and the Union are on opposite ends of the spectrum due to CTE !! Think about it, if the NFL acknowledged it 100%, it would set them up for paying out MILLION$ of dollars to veteran NFL players who ultimately through their “sacrifices” have netted multiple millions of dollars to the NFL . Not to mention the possibility of having to recalculate final retirement packages for fresh NFL retirees. Did you know that the last check that an NFL players receives is the one after 12 of retirement in which he has a “medical review” ? It determines how much damage from prior NFL injuries has occurred, their estimate of medical treatment, rehab, medical insurance , etc. and then the NFL drafts him a check predicated on those medical investigations. (of course, if they have also completed the mandatory minimum years of paying into the NFL player retirement plan after playing a minimum of 3 years they can still expect something that will pay out from the NFL pension) Therefore, i can only imagine what would happen if the NFL truly wanted to represent “Family” instead of “It’s a Business”, noooo the sentiment looks good when receiving your bust in Canton but it’s all B.S……………………………..Besides, the 49’ers were “much” better off with DeBartolo as compared to Jed York !!

  21. Eddie was the best owner ever. To dominate for a decade is one thing. To dominate for two straight decades, and with two different coaches is quite another. George Seifert should also be in the HOF, and the guys in that front office who drafted all those great players shouldn’t be too far behind. This was the best run franchise in NFL history.

  22. Love the sentiment Eddie D.

    Maybe you can get your sister to give you back your team before it’s destroyed.

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