Football is one of America’s favorite sports, and during the holiday season there always seems to be a significant game scheduled. This serves to put the sport of football in the forefront of the nation’s consciousness and functions to further entrench it into the national culture. Such strategy by the NFL has lead it to become the most profitable professional sport league in the United States, with a revenue of $9.5 billion last year. But in the process of creating such profits, the league has trampled upon the safety of its current and former employees.
The NFL and National Football League Players Association have largely failed in areas where other sports have succeeded. NFL retirees are often left with debilitating injuries or show signs of brain damage, and are swept to the side, because the league does not want to take care of them. The NFL seems to go by the mantra of out of sight, out of mind.”
Helmets have not proven to be as effective as they should be in preventing concussions, and the league knows this — but they discredit and cover up anything that says otherwise. There have only been nine players that have made over $100 million dollars over the course of their careers in the NFL, while there have been more than 40 players in the MLB that have made over $100 million. There are currently four players, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, who have signed contracts for over $200 million.
The NFL is the United State’s largest sporting draw, and it is sickening that the NFL can make so much, yet care so little, about their players. They are able to draw players from college and use this system as their own farm system, in which they have to invest no effort whatsoever. Many players coming into the league have come from lower-class backgrounds in the inner city, have dreams of playing in the NFL to support their families, and make sure that their children won’t have to struggle like they did. But the NFL preys on these athletes, shattering their hopes with non-guaranteed contracts and the threat of a serious debilitating injury at the onset of every play. Despite this, people are willing to put up with this because it is all that they have ever known, and in it is the promise of more money. So, over the course of their careers they will face the possibility of multiple surgeries and numerous concussions that can leave them with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease, and a largely decreased levels of lifelong happiness.
The National Football League must surely know the dangers that their employees face, but they also realize that there will always be someone ready to take their place if they can’t deal with all of this.
Compared to the MLB and NBA, where players are respected by franchises and often play enough for more than 15 years, the NFL grossly mistreats its players. Yes, the NFL is more of a contact sport, so it does make sense that careers will be shorter, but this does not mean that players should not receive more support after they retire with medical bills and retirement plans. Players should receive even more medical treatment for this reason.
Football is one of America’s most favored and watched sports, but the way that the NFL uses and throws away players as if they are nothing ruins the experience for me. One of the first steps that can be taken by the NFL is to release their studies on the effects of concussions on retired players, as well as to cease impeding studies on concussions that are conducted by others. The NFL knows that the helmets that players use are not adequate; therefore, some share of the profits should be devoted to creating better safety equipment for the players.
Concussions in football lead to long term health risks and are a more serious issue than the NFL has shown them to be in the past. Many players have suffered so many concussions of one form or another that they have lost count of these injuries, and this has lead to a vast number of former NFL players that have been diagnosed with CTE. There are a variety of factors that contribute to the prevalence of concussions in the NFL other than the fact that it is a contact sport. The nature of the sport cannot be eliminated, but concussions should be minimized as much as possible. There are many factors that can be changed to decrease head injuries, so there is no excuse for the NFL to continue putting their employees at risk.
To start off with, the NFL can put forward as much energy as possible into diagnosing concussion symptoms so that players can be further protected, even if they don’t want to come out of games. As I previously stated, more money can be put forward into producing safer helmets, which will do nothing but help decrease concussions. One of the largest contributing factors to undiagnosed concussions may be the fact that players do not want to come out of the game to get help. They are afraid of being labeled as injury-prone and having to miss out on playing time, which is so hard to come by and is also never guaranteed.
If the NFL gave them more job security and benefits, then these players would think less of keeping a hold on their jobs and more about their own long term health instead. However, many players do not realize the extent of the damage that repeated concussions and head trauma can cause later on in life, because the National Football League has attempted to cover it up so that the sport avoids negative publicity.
The NFL is not leaving anytime soon, which is a good thing for fans of the sport and a bad thing for the people who are taken advantage of at various levels of the game. This does not mean that fans should not hold this business accountable for its actions and its treatment of its employees. The NFL is nothing more than a business, and the sooner that people realize this, the easier it will be for them to realize that they can make a difference as the consumers.