There’s a growing opinion that lawsuits against the NFL concerning concussions of former players could eventually bring the sports giant of the United States to its knees. Those filing suit would have us believe that the NFL hid information indicating the true risk of repeated concussions while doing nothing to make the game safer. They argue they didn’t know the extent of those risks, and they’re now dealing with very real mental health ramifications as a result.
The NFL argues that they had nothing to hide. They say that players knew there were inherent risks in playing such a brutal game at such a high level. The NFL argues that they are on the forefront of concussion research and doing everything within reason to take care of former players that are suffering from post-concussion disabilities.
The elephant in the room that no one is talking about here is, how should we view the NFL? Villain or victim?
I’ll be first to say that I’m a huge fan of the game of football, and that bias leads me in the direction of protecting the game, and in this case, that means protecting the NFL too. There’s the possibility that they weren’t up front with the players about the risks of concussions, but then again, are those former players really saying they didn’t know taking repeated blows to the head could have mental health ramifications later in life? I’m not buying that.
Terry Bradshaw told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show that he doesn’t think the NFL genuinely cares about its former players, saying, “They’re forced to care now because it’s politically correct to care.”
Guess what. Bradshaw’s right, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The simple truth, regardless of how cynical it sounds, is that the NFL is a business. There seems to be an expectation that owners treat their former players like family members. The fact of the matter is that most owners probably have no personal relationship at all with most of their players. Sure, their are exceptions to the rule, but most players probably have little to no interaction with their team’s owner. Why, then, do we expect owners to genuinely care about people they couldn’t pick out of a crowd?
I’m not suggesting that NFL owners shouldn’t have compassion towards their fellow human beings, but I am saying it’s not their responsibility to volunteer to fork over millions of dollars in a vain attempt to make those players’ problems go away. Money can’t fix everything, and it doesn’t fix depression.
Instead, let’s let the NFL continue to be on the forefront of concussion research. In recent years, they’ve pushed heavily for a safer product, and it’s an admirable cause. Let’s let the NFL provide health care to its former players. If the owners are going to throw millions of dollars out of their own pockets, let’s make sure that money goes to something useful instead of into a former player’s bank account. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I do think those players knew what they signed up for. They got payed a lot of money for their work too.