Tony Dorsett was among my first football heroes. He made me fall in love with the game during his remarkable career at Pitt, which he capped off as a senior by rushing for 2,150 yards. He was awarded the Heisman Trophy as the Panthers won the national championship in 1976.
A four-time All-American and one of the greatest ever to play college football, he is the singular reason why I came to worship at the alter of the NFL when he become a Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie.
Pro football had a fan for life, or so I thought back then. But today, I officially threw in the towel.
Long before Dorsett announced a few years ago that he was exhibiting signs of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the vicious brain disease that is ravaging many former football players, I knew that the NFL and I were soon to part ways on a less than friendly basis.
The suicides and deaths of others who’d suffered from CTE, like Dave Duerson, Mike Webster, Ken Stabler, Chris Henry, Jovan Belcher, Junior Seau and so many others, was more than enough to make me re-think how I spent my Sundays.
And as word seeped out about the NFL’s attempts to downplay the inherent brutal violence of its product and its direct link to CTE and other debilitating physical ailments, I began to feel like I’d been used as well.
I’d been cheering for and supporting a league for 40 years that tossed human beings into a refuse pile while denying that they owed them and their families any residual compensation and long-term health benefits for the physical, psychological and emotional damage that the game has caused. The thought of it sickened me.
And now we have the icing on the cake in the form of a congressional report which asserts that the NFL waged an indecorous, surreptitious campaign last year to influence a major U.S. government research study on the links between football and brain disease.
It was horrific enough to read GQ’s expose in 2009 on Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who fought against efforts by the National Football League to suppress his research on brain degeneration suffered by its players.
With all of the negative press surrounding the film Concussion, starring Will Smith, which cinematically told Omalu’s story and illuminated the nefarious forces that the NFL viciously unleashed to discredit him, you would think that they would have had a Come-to-Jesus moment with the intention of cleansing its soul.
It turns out that the NFL has no soul.
The congressional report shows how the league attempted to bully the National Institutes of Health, whom they had supposedly given an “unrestricted gift” of $30 million in 2012 to study the link between football and brain injuries. The NFL demanded that a $16 million project spearheaded by prominent Boston University researcher and expert in neurodegenerative disease, Robert Stern, be snatched out of his hands and deflected in the direction of members of its own committee on brain injuries.
Stern had been critical of the billion dollar behemoth led by Roger Goodell, and the NFL proved that their definition of “unrestricted” is not the one that appears in the dictionary. The league reneged on its agreement to pay for the study, shifting the financial burden to taxpayers in the process.
The report states that the NFL’s vile actions violated policies that prohibit private donors’ interference and were part of their “long-standing pattern of attempts” to influence concussion and brain injury research to suit its own purposes.
I just can’t trust the NFL anymore. They position themselves as wholesome sport and entertainment, when they’re really a bunch of extremely wealthy white men raking in billions off the demolition and ruination of its athletes.
For close to twenty years, before being exposed as nothing more than a bunch of billionaire Three-Card-Monte hustlers, the league lauded itself as trying to find real answers when it formed its own research committees. They went on to publish close to twenty papers that basically said that NFL players don’t get brain damage.
That’s more absurd and ludicrous than saying that Adam Sandler is a better actor than DeNiro, Pacino, Cheadle, Hackman and Brando. C’mon, Son!!!
The NFL tried to enhance its image by touting itself as one of the country’s largest funders of brain research. But that was never intended at getting at the scientific truth. It was simply to enhance the revenues and isolate the liabilities of America’s richest, most dangerous and popular sports business enterprise.
Their motives are anything but altruistic, bordering more on immoral wickedness. They play by their own rules by punishing their detractors and pull off the okey-doke by funneling money towards researchers and scientists for whom they simply ghostwrite their lyrics.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
They have no desire for the uncomfortable candor of the damage that the game has wrought on its workforce to see the light of day. I can’t sit still and bear it any longer.
This is no different than when Big Tobacco funded research 60 years ago that claimed that there was no link between smoking and cancer.
Like Eddie Murphy’s Jedi Mind Trick, the NFL keeps saying, “It wasn’t me.”
And they somehow, as inexplicable as Donald Trump being the Republican frontrunner, manage to sell the mirage to a foolish and sleep-walking public.
I’m tired of being played for a sucker. And it’s painful to process, because I still love the game. But the NFL gets no more love from me.
I simply can’t do it anymore.