Fantasy football amuses its fans but dehumanizes players

By Farah Bassyouni Sep 25, 2023

As early as 1962, Americans have been participating in the phenomenon known as fantasy sports. The premise is simple: sports fans called “managers” take place in a “draft,” where they pick their favorite sports players to take place on their own imaginary dream team.

These teams then compete against each other and score points based on how well the players do in their actual game. Even 60 years later,  fantasy football is one of the best and worst things that has ever happened for the NFL.

NFL Football is one of the most popular sports broadcasted in America, with a single game garnering an average of 17 million viewers. But regardless of how fun the games are, the NFL is still a business.

If you want to be as profitable as possible, you need to get fans watching as many games (and commercials) as possible. So, how do you engage viewers to interact with more than just their favorite team’s game each week? Enter fantasy football.

Unless you draft your entire fantasy roster from a single team (which, for the uninitiated, is a terrible strategy), you are going to have players in a few games, thus you have fans watching football all hours of the weekend.

Yahoo Sports, one of the largest fantasy sports platforms, reported over 7 million users in 2019. That’s an extra 7 million people who could realistically watch two, three, or more games each week to watch their players.

Even I, a devoted 49ers fan, will watch a terrible Seahawks game to see if Geno Smith can score some points. As much as I enjoy the positive side of fantasy sports, a very disgusting and negative side still needs to be addressed. 

This last Thursday, September 14, 2023, the Minnesota Vikings took on the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite a down-to-the-wire finish between the two teams, the game was still plenty disappointing for some managers, which isn’t uncommon; players “underperform” all the time.

But after this particular game, some hateful “fans” barraged Vikings’s running back Alexander Matison, with hate-fueled messages on Instagram. Matison  reported over 60 “disgustingly disrespectful messages,” many of which were racist comments. The dehumanization of football players and celebrities in general is a reality that is now all too common. Whether it is celebrating a player on a rival team getting a devastating injury or cheering when a celebrity couple splits up, we feel compelled to give our two cents into these people’s lives. 

While fantasy football can be a fun commodity for us on the outside, we forget  that these players are real people who are putting their bodies at risk, as seen last season with Damar Hamlin’s terrifying mid-game injury, to provide us entertainment. So let’s be a little kinder when your fantasy team drops an egg and remember why we play fantasy sports in the first place: for the love of the game.

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