The NFL: The League That Has Never Respected Their Players

A statement made by Texans’ owner Bob McNair came out today in which he said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” McNair made this statement in last week’s owner’s meeting in reference to the players who continue to kneel for the anthem. Many people are taking this quote out of context as they think this is a racist remark, but I am here to tell you that is not true. This remark is directed towards every single NFL player. It is showing, once again, that the NFL owners and executives do not respect their players. This is a trend that has been going on for years now and people continue to overlook.

Colin Kaepernick has started a protest that has been heard around the world. His purpose was to bring light to police brutality and racial inequality. He has had many other NFL players follow in his footsteps as many players have taken part in kneeling for the pregame national anthem. However, nothing has been done.

Take a look at the NHL. Tampa Bay Lighting player J.T. Brown was the first NHL player to protest for racial equality as he raised his fist during the national anthem. Instead of ignoring the issue, the Lighting took action. They released a statement saying they support Brown for his actions and they promote social equality. They also helped in setting up a meeting with the Tampa police department to talk about these issues and how they can be fixed. We look back at the NFL and these protests have been going on for over a year now. Still, nothing has changed. When will an owner take action and support their players in this matter?

It does not end there. Look at the CTE issue that has gone on in the NFL. Football is a dangerous sport, but this is something that we have known for years as have the players who participate in the sport. However, it is the job of the NFL owners and executives to make sure they can keep their players as safe as possible.

In 1994, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue downplayed the issue of concussions when he said that knee injuries, drugs, steroids and alcohol are bigger problems. He also said that journalists make concussions a bigger issue than they actually are. In 1999, ex-NFL player Mike Webster claimed that football gave him dementia, but the issue was ignored. Later that year, a leak showed that the NFL admitted football injuries caused Webster to become paralyzed, but still the issue was thrown under the rug. In 2000, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that Troy Aikman should continue to play with concussions if the game is important since, “data that we have so far don’t point to lasting effects.” In 2002 it was discovered that Mike Webster actually had CTE. This was the first case found in an NFL player.

In November of 2003, two incidents occurred. The first was when a researcher warned the NFL that the issue is much bigger than they realize. Once again, ignored. Then, New York Jet player, at the time, Wayne Chrebet was knocked out cold during a game. He was “examined” by Dr. Elliot Pellman, Jets’ team doctor and head of NFL’s Mind Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, and sent back into the game. In 2004, this committee said players recover quickly from concussions. Later that year, Justin Strzelczyk died and he was found to have had CTE. Once again, the NFL says it is not an issue.

It took five suicides, from 2005-2012, and a law suit from the NFLPA for the NFL to finally realize there is a problem. Roger Goodell finally admitted the issue is serious and it must be looked more into. This issue started in 1994 and was not address until 2012. That is absurd and disgusting. Speaking of Rodger Goodell, the players have voiced their concerns over and over against about the commissioner having too much power. He fined players left and right for the smallest issues such as celebrations. However, he is still here today with the same amount of power. He has the power to fine who he wants, when he wants and that has yet to change even though the NFL players have voiced their concerns about this issue.

Another sign of disrespect is the non-guarantee contracts that NFL players receive. I understand they receive a certain amount of guaranteed money. I understand that they are more susceptible to an injury compared to other sports. However, does that give the NFL the right to give these players non-guaranteed contracts? I say, no. The top-notch players are still paid a huge sum and are fine even without guaranteed money. What about the lower-end players? What about the players who might not make a roster? How about the players who are on a roster, but not that important and get injured then cut? These players have partners to support, kids to feed and sometimes they take care of their parents as well. Their contracts may seem mighty, but in reality they may never see any of that money because their contracts are not guaranteed. These players give all of their time and effort in playing this game in hopes that they will make it. Some never do and those are the ones that get hurt by this issue. Once again, non-guaranteed contracts are still an issue today.

A final issue that comes to my mind, that is still being ignored, is the medical marijuana issue. Players’ bodies take a toll day in and day out. Between the workouts, intense practices and games their bodies are worn out and they are in pain. The NFL allows players to take pills that are prescribed by the league’s doctors. These pills can be addictive and players have been saying they have experienced withdrawals if they do not take it for an extended period of time. Players have spoke out about this issue and have said that they want a change. They acknowledge that they need some type of pain relief and many have said medical marijuana can be the solution. What do you think has happened? Ignored, again. Marijuana is less addictive than pills and the side effects are slim to none. Players have said they want it in the league and they actually feel better when they take it compared to pills, but it still remains banned. Players actually get suspended for using it. They are looking out for their own health and their future, but the NFL does not care.

All of these incidents are just a snippet at how the NFL views their players. They view them as puppets, as money makers. The players go out their and give it their all week in and week out, but still do not get the respect from the owners and executives that they deserve. Yes, some make plenty of money and live great lives, but the owners live even better ones. The owners make more money and make it for a longer period of time. When the time is up for a player, most of the time they are shoved to the side and replaced. When will the owners listen? When will they care? When will they show their players the respect that they deserve? Something has to change and the light on these issues need to be even brighter.

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Nicholas LoPrinzi

I'm a washed up D3 college baseball player who is pursuing their MBA in Accounting. I love baseball, basketball, and football; while rooting for the New York Mets, New York Knicks, and New York Giants. Most of the time it is full of misery. I have recently found a passion for writing about sports. I have posted a few articles for Last Word on Sports and I have now created my own website (the-sportstalk.com). You can check out my articles there and also follow the twitter account @_thesportstalk.

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