For as long as I can remember, I have loved football and the NFL. I have grown from an elementary-age schoolboy who simply cheered on his favorite team because his father did to a man who has a deep appreciation for the sport and what it provides to the country.
However, I’ve noticed that the sport has begun to slide downhill as a whole. More and more, retired professional football players are committing suicide due to the side effects of head injuries sustained during their careers. There was the Saints bounty scandal, the lockout last season and the list goes on.
Two bits of news came out yesterday that seemed to put things into perspective as to where the state of football is today. First, it was revealed that the NFL actively sought to prevent Roy Fox, a man from Indiana, from placing trademarks on the term “Harbowl,” a reference to Jim and John Harbaugh facing each other in the Super Bowl this year. Secondly, the family of Junior Seau announced they were filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL.
When the NFL learned that Fox was attempting to place the trademark, it pressured him into dropping his efforts to do so. At first, Fox simply asked the NFL to reimburse him for the cost of filing the trademark and provide him with season tickets to Indianapolis Colts games this season and a signed picture of the NFL commissioner in return for abandoning his efforts.
However, the NFL denied his requests and threatened Fox with legal action that included the threats of making Fox pay the league’s legal costs. Only then did Fox drop the trademark.
Instead of the NFL, which generates billions of dollars in revenue, giving Fox the tickets and the picture, it bullied him until he gave up his fight just because they could. To me, it seems like the league abused a guy by threatening to bankrupt him, even though he was within his legal rights.
The second piece of news that came from the NFL yesterday was the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit by the family of Junior Seau, a former standout linebacker in the NFL who shot and killed himself last May. Earlier this month it was revealed, through posthumous studies on Seau’s brain, that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE, as a result of repeated head trauma he suffered while playing football. His family has suggested that CTE caused Seau to take his life.
While the news of Seau’s passing was tragic, this lawsuit is another example of head trauma being ignored for too long by the NFL. Rule changes to the game are not the only answer, and there must be changes that allow technological advances to be made to helmets, as well as advancements to the way players are monitored on the field.
Recently, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” did a feature on a development in the technology of helmets that allows team trainers to monitor how hard a player is hit in real time. If a player is hit too hard in the head, a trainer can recommend to the coach that he remove that player for further evaluation. Currently, schools such as North Carolina and Virginia Tech utilize the technology for their teams, and have been since as early as 2004. As of yet, the NFL has refused to implement the system, primarily due to objections from the player’s union.
The state of the NFL is not good. Within a seven-day span earlier this season, the Chiefs and the Cowboys suffered unspeakable tragedies. Former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend nine times, then killed himself in front of his head coach and general manager while his blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit.
Then, a week later, Josh Brent of the Cowboys was accused of driving drunk and has been charged with intoxicated manslaughter after his car crashed, leading to the death of his teammate Jerry Brown.
There is no one specific issue or person to blame, but right now the NFL is not sitting well with a lot of people. Tragedies are too frequent and morals are too low. Something has to change to get the game that America loves back to a positive standing.
Sean Frye is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to [email protected]