The NFL On Trial

by Junior D on June 8, 2012 · 0 comments

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Picture taken from WKRG-TV

OK, I love football with every ounce of my being. We all know that football players, in general, are not the smartest people on the planet (see twitter). With that said, I am having a hard time swallowing this lawsuit that former players have filed against the NFL. Not that I don’t think that they have a case, I just don’t know if I buy into everything that they’re saying. I’m rather conflicted because of my love for the game and my concern for its players.

The current complaint before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody alleges that the NFL “deliberately and fraudulently concealed from its players the link between football-related head impacts and long-term neurological injuries.” Here’s where my issues begin. If I asked a 5-year-old “do you think you will have some sort of brain damage if you slam your head into a wall thousands of times?” he or she would most likely say yes. How are grown men saying they had no idea that they would have some sort of damage to their brain or any other part of their body if they slam their heads, at full speed, into another man’s head everyday for half of their life? Did the NFL hide info they discovered about the ramifications of head injuries? They probably did but did the players have no idea that there was a possibility of permanent problems after they were done playing?

Players are alleging that they were never made aware of the potential damages that concussions would have on their lives. Listen, once again, I have sympathy for any of these former players that have had major problems after their careers are over but to say that you had no idea is absolutely absurd to me. I played football in high school (I was terrible but I still played) and even then I knew about the dangers of concussions. In college (roughly 1996) I wrote a term paper about the long term effects of concussions. My conclusion was if the “macho” mentality of football didn’t change that some players would face horrible consequences. I was not pre-med; I was a communications major which means that I was one step above the underwater basket weaving major. If I knew this how could thousands of athletes not know this?

If the players named in this lawsuit wanted to sue the NFL strictly for more money and benefits after their playing careers were over because of the medical expenses incurred with having these injuries then I am 100% behind them. To say that they had no idea that bashing their head into a wall thousands of times over the span of 10-20 years would do any permanent damage is preposterous. I have taught my son that every action has a consequence, either good or bad. If you do something good or bad it has an effect on yourself and others. That’s a pretty simple statement but it’s true. Also, trust yourself and your own research. Asking the NFL to be completely truthful about head injuries is like asking Phillip Morris if smoking is bad. They will give you a biased opinion even if the research says otherwise. Do yourself a favor and look into the matter yourself if you’re that concerned. I hate to be that cold about the situation but when you’re dealing with billion dollar corporations that’s how it is.

Do I think that the NFL is completely without fault? I don’t think that at all, but the NFL provides help to any players that need it and yet the players don’t take them up on their offer. The NFL provides the phone numbers and names of off duty officers that can escort players and act as security when they go out…do many of them use it? No. They also provide time management, anger management, financial education and other services that many players don’t take advantage of. So if the NFL offered all of this information about the ramifications of head injuries who is to say that the players would have listened? There is a “it’s not gonna happen to me” attitude in sports and that’s exactly how the players would’ve reacted to the information about head injuries.

The problem doesn’t, completely, sit on the NFL’s shoulders. The players and coaches need to take some responsibility as well. Ask any player what happens when they are injured and have to miss any amount of time. They are treated like they have the plague by their teammates. The machismo that thrives in all contact and collision sports is the problem. This is what has been preventing players from taking a few plays, a whole game or, God forbid, a week off. They don’t want to be perceived as being soft or not a team player. Hell, Ronnie Lott cut off the end of his finger so he could continue to play.

I know, I need to land the plane here but I needed to get this off of my chest. I guess I am on the player’s side as long as their motives are pure. There is only so much that science and the NFL can do to help the players on this issue. Other than making the NFL a flag football league I think the NFL’s hands are tied on this one. These players know what they are signing up for and what’s ahead of them, especially now. Some will choose to retire or not to play in the first place. Either way the NFL will be fine. There will be no shortage of athletes that have weighed the pros and cons and will choose to play football. If the players in this case are looking out for only themselves and hiding behind the “we didn’t know” defense then I can’t stand behind what they are doing. If they are truly looking for post football benefits to help themselves and the players of the future then I fully support them.

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