Suits Vs. Uniforms

We’re told there’s a thin line between love and hate, insanity and genius, the truth and a lie. Truth is, the line only looks thin because we’re scared to get close to it. It’s actually very bold and distinct.

The same goes for the NFL when it comes to player safety versus the integrity of the game. There is no fine line as the NFL would have you believe. It’s actually very distinct and, quite honestly, common sense.

Football is a violent sport. Breaking news to the NFL these days but it’s true. Always has been. That’s why the players get paid millions and we’re okay with it.

When did the NFL turn into a 13 year old girl? Their overreaction to one weekend of hard hits is immature, extreme, and short sighted. Let’s work out this CBA thing first before starting to impose new rules (err, excuse me, “strictly enforcing existing ones”) and slapping players with massive fines.

I get the player safety issue. Leading with the head is a problem. If any player intentionally launches himself head first into another players helmet he should be suspended. But, there is a defined line between a helmet to helmet hit and a clean but punishing tackle.

There is a gulf between protecting player safety and legislating the violence out of football. If you wear a suit on Sundays you shouldn’t have the right to tell the guy that wears a uniform on Sundays how to play his game. NFL players are not stupid. The NFLPA has a purpose. The NFL suits need to defer to the NFLPA more often and start consulting with former players instead of taking matters into their own hands.

I’ll be as bold to say that the NFL suits aren’t as interested in player safety as much as they’re interested in not paying for players health care after they retire. Mark Schlereth revealed on ESPN that his 29 football related surgeries were not enough for the NFL to provide him post-career health care. That’s the underlying issue. That’s why they’re trying to take the violence out of the game.

And if they succeed, RIP NFL.

This is the problem with legislation in sports, suits that only care about the bottom line try to maximize profit. It should be left to the current and former players to regulate the game while still protecting its integrity. Nobody associated with the NFL is in poverty. But the suits think by regulating the danger element in a game built on violence they’ll be able to expand the season and grow profit. Win, win! Right? Wrong.

The answer isn’t legislation, it’s innovation. Better equipment, safer helmets. The only mainstream sports that are as dangerous as the NFL are NASCAR and Indy Car. Advancements in safety technology in both of those sports has resulted in drivers WALKING away from shredded scraps of metal that used to resemble a car. Dale Earnhardt’s death served as a wake up call in the sport. Instead of legislating that drivers stay in their lanes they invested in technological innovations to make their product safer, ultimately, making it better. Drivers can now drive without fear. So why does the NFL want their players to play with fear?

This defenseless receiver rule and vague “flagrant hit” definition is a joke. DeSean Jackson had the football in his hand when he was hit. How is he defenseless? Should Dunta Robinson have let him take a few steps? DeSean Jackson is one of the top 3 fastest guys in the league, a couple steps is a touchdown. Also, Robinson did not lead with his head. It was a clean shoulder to shoulder hit that, yes, was violent, but certainly not worth a $50,000 fine.

These issues are the direct result of guys that have never played the game telling the guys that do, how. If you have no perspective then you really shouldn’t attempt to enforce any rules, especially without consultation. It’s like blindfolding yourself and calling someone states away and asking them when it’s safe to cross the intersection. It’s foolish. Unless Undercover Boss does an NFL episode (and everyone signs a waiver) they’ll never know what it’s like to be on that field. Hell, I don’t even know. But I’m smart enough to defer to the players.

If the NFL continues to alienate its workforce and its fans they’re headed down a path filled with the remains of once successful businesses. The bottom line profit can’t be your sole motivating factor. The NFL was built and has survived (and thrived) for decades upon a foundation of integrity and respect for the game, not its bank accounts.

Use the money to fund the innovations in safety that’ll allow the game to continue to be played at its purest level. It may be the long road, but it’s the proper road because it leads to protecting the product. Which ultimately maximizes productivity and profit.

There’s your win, win.


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