This week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be presented with the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program Leadership in Sports Health, Safety & Research Award. Considering the fact that the NFL’s (mis)handling of the league’s concussion problem has been making constant headlines recently, the timing could not be more awkward.
In the two weeks since Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, unexpectedly said that there is an “unequivocal link” between CTE and football, the league has been busy walking that statement back.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called the link “absurd.” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay compared the risk of football to the risk of taking an aspirin. Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians ranted against the so-called “war on football” and said that parents who won’t let their kids play football “are fools.”
Open mouth insert foot.SMFH. https://t.co/MerM83NFFl
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) March 28, 2016
Last week, a New York Times investigation showcased extensive flaws in concussion research conducted by the NFL last decade. From 1996-2001, over 100 concussions were omitted from official data that was used in important concussion research. Not only did the league heavily deny the accusations, it took out ads on the NYT website to showcase how it is “advancing player safety on and off the field.”
Congress has also submitted a letter asking the NFL to explain why it attempted to intervene in concussion research by Boston University, research it was supposedly funding with no strings attached, according to ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah announced his retirement from the game after suffering his fifth concussion, mainly due to “personal health” concerns. At 30, Abdullah joins a growing list of NFL players who are retiring early due to concerns over concussions and their long-term health.
The NFL continues to send mixed messages on the dangers of concussions and sub-concussive hits, fail to take responsibility for its past missteps in concussion research, and intervene in current studies. All the while, players are on the field putting their long-term well-being on the line as billionaire owners and Goodell get richer.
So while Goodell’s safety award isn’t for his handling of concussions — instead, it’s for helping increase the number of high-school athletic trainers in a Jacksonville school district — the optics are not good.
Don’t forget, it was less than two months ago at the Super Bowl when Goodell deflected concussion concerns by saying, “There is risk in everything. There’s risk in sitting on the couch.”