OPINION: NFL Relaxes On Celebrations, Still Too Relaxed On Concussions
It was announced on Tuesday that the No Fun League, NFL, will be reinstating a little bit of fun by relaxing their draconian rule over touchdown celebrations. Group celebrations, making snow angels, and using the football as a prop are now considered legal celebrations that won’t result in an exorbitant fine. Still, players shouldn’t get carried away – any celebration that delays the game, taunts the opposing team, or doesn’t set “good examples for young athletes,” will still be punished.
This is all good. The NFL has gained a reputation for being the dictators of the sports world, where uniformity and silence are not only the status quo, but anything less is a punishable offense. By relaxing the rules and allowing players to pretend to cook dinner on the football, or pretend their teammates are bowling pins, or make snow angels, the NFL is beginning to change their image, one more acceptable in the world of social media and viral personalities.
But lets not forget, there is one word that the dictatorship will not allow its subjects to speak – and that word is, ‘concussion.’
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter concerning the relaxation of player celebrations, that the league uses the offseason to “listen to players, coaches, officials and fans about how we can continue to improve our great game.” Still, Goodell, who has been commissioner since 2006, has mostly ignored the chorus of voices calling for a serious overhaul of the league’s concision protocols since the beginning of his tenure.
In the same letter, Goodell writes, “We also took important steps on health and safety, including approving new rules prohibiting the ‘leaper’ block attempt – a top priority from our players.” The ‘leaper’ block attempt is when a defensive player jumps over the offensive line right at the moment of the snap in order to block a field goal attempt. It was banned because it potentially could cause a serious injury although most injuries occurring as a result of the block don’t often involve the head.
There was no word about concussions anywhere in the letter.
NFL owners are now considering a rule that would allow teams to put concussed players onto a shortened disabled list, and replace the player with a healthy one until the original has recovered. This could potentially mean a lot for treating concussions properly – players would feel better reporting it if they knew their recovery wouldn’t take forever and teams would feel better because they could treat their player and still give their team a good opportunity to win. Unfortunately, this rule is unlikely to pass because owners feel that other teams may exploit the rule, subbing out poorly performing players for better ones.
The players, this offseason, have also begun to get flak for the concussion issue – they are frequently blamed for not reporting their injury. But their diffident attitude towards reporting a concussion stems from a much larger NFL culture of winning first, and money first, a culture Goodell and the owners have perpetuated.
Tom Brady‘s wife Gisele Bundchen recently claimed that her husband has suffered multiple concussions through out his career and never reported them. Worried that they may affect his health after he retires – which they have been proven to do – Bundchen spoke out, although her husband has disputed her claim, surely caught in the culture of the NFL.
On Tuesday, future Hall of Famer, Calvin Johnson told the Detroit Free Press, “Guys get concussions, they don’t tell the coaches. It happens. I don’t tell the coach sometimes cause I know I got a job to do. The team needs me out there on the field. And sometimes, you allow that to jeopardize yourself but that’s just the nature of the world.”
And Johnson is right. That is the nature of the world.
Those in charge of the world, at least the sporting world, need to take a hard look at all the evidence out there – honestly, they don’t even need to look that hard – and work to change the world they control.
Then, players will really have something to celebrate.