NFL and Players Association wage hypocritical war over player safety

| February 20th, 2013

Talk, Talk, Talk

Player safety.

That seems to be the key buzzword floating around the NFL these days.  Rodger Goodell and the league office talk about it all the time.  Seriously.  They just don’t stop.  They fine players for itmake new rules in the pursuit of it, and make commercials about it.

The players, meanwhile, also seem to care about their own safety quite a bit.  They talk about it adnauseam, and many former NFL players are suing the NFL for a lack of safety protocol, ostensibly to make the game safer more than to line their own pockets.

This fan, for one, is utterly sick of it, and I know I can’t be alone.  Both sides talk back and forth, pointing fingers at each other, but neither push for any meaningful reform.  All they care about is winning the war of public opinion, and their blatant hypocrisy needs to stop.

When the NFL and players’ union were in a lockout in 2011, they debated many important issues for the future of the league, including how to fairly share revenue and prevent rookies from being vastly overpaid.  But for two parties that both care so much about player safety, they didn’t really make much progress on that front.  Sure, they reduced full-contact practices and offseason workouts and put some token money into medical research, but they missed the main issue.

Style over safety

Football players have safer helmets available to them, ones that are proven to reduce concussions.  A few players, such as DeSean Jackson, Aaron Rodgers, and Greg Jennings, have switched to these (with good results), but the vast majority eschew them because they don’t look cool enough.  So let me get this straight: players will sue the NFL because of concussions, but won’t change to helmets that can prevent these concussions because of the style? It is hypocrisy of the highest order, and it was repeated when players complained about being forced to wear thigh pads.

The NFL league office, meanwhile, is not blameless in this either.  Sure, they fine players for delivering dangerous hits, but they do nothing to force them to wear the safer equipment. I understand that needs to be bargained with the players’ union, but if the league really cared about player safety as much as they claim, that would have been a top priority in the 2011 lockout.  A league that can fine players for their socks or shoes, but not for wearing unsafe helmets, is not a league that truly cares about the safety of those players.

Furthermore, the NFL is really only using player safety as an excuse to tweak rules in favor of the offense.  When one quarterback gets his knee blown out by a player lunging from the ground, that becomes illegal.  Receivers and quarterbacks have greater protection now than they ever have, making the passing game much more prolific than at any point in NFL history, but defensive players do not get awarded this same protection.  Offensive players have far fewer restrictions on how to block than defenders do on how to hit, leading to leg injuries to defensive players who get chopped down on a regular basis.  The NFL’s new crackdown on player safety is inherently biased towards promoting big plays and lots of points, things which help drive ratings and make money for the league.

Calling Bull

Both the NFL and the players’ union claim to care about player safety, but I’m not buying it.  Both sides are extremely hypocritical and only really care about one thing—money.  There is nothing wrong with this, but lying to the public to garner sympathy is just wrong.  I’m calling bullshit right here and right now. Shut up and play. Take the copious quantities of money we throw at you and be done with it.

Don’t expect us to care about your health when you prove just how little you care about it yourselves.