The Top Five Ways The NFL Has Started 2022 Wrong

Image Credit: Twitter @NFLonFOX screen shot

There’s an old saying, “new level, new devils,” and the NFL might be feeling the impact of that sentiment especially hard right now.

As 2022 rolled in, along with a Super Bowl of quarterbacks playing in the big game for the first time, the league and its teams still faced lingering problems. No sports entertainment organization wants these issues. However, the NFL is rife with a side-eye appeal.

Here are the Top Five Ways The NFL Has Shown Not To Start 2022:

The Questionable Player Health & Safety

Although it became a meme and an exciting pop culture pause in history, Antonio Brown’s departure from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was nothing short of revealing.

While the narrative focused on the state of Brown’s mental health, he turned the mirror back and to raise the issue of quick-fix patch-ups for injury problems in the NFL.

The wide received said on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” the Buccaneers injected him with Toradol, a painkiller, before games with the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets. Brown claimed the shot was to help him play on a damaged ankle.

However, NFL players have been urged to limit the usage of the painkiller Toradol by the NFL Players Association. According to reports, the NFLPA sent a memo about Toradol to all players; “the risk of Toradol causing major bleeding” was also cited in it.

Several NFL players have denounced Toradol use as unchecked and dangerous in the NFL. Former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth had a kidney transplant and said at the time that he believed Toradol was partially responsible for his kidney disease.

The Inherent Bias

The NFL has a plethora of institutional problems, many of which result from an apparent inherent bias.

“Inherent bias” is the effect of underlying factors or assumptions that skew viewpoints of a subject under discussion. From the Washington Commanders’ toxic workplace culture allegations to the racial disparities in hiring, the NFL and team owners don’t see the world the way the rest of us do.

But let’s break down why. They cannot see how their own biases based on power, privilege, and more have shaped their viewpoint. “Advantage” is the name of the game; the NFL and its teams have shown an unwillingness to check their own.

Inherent biases are pervasive, and everyone possesses them. If judges committed to impartiality have an inherent bias, then, naturally, so do sports organizations’ governing bodies.

From Jon Gruden’s toxic opinion-filled emails to former Washington Commanders GM Bruce Allen to Dan Snyder’s congressional hearing about alleged sexually inappropriate conduct, inherent bias allowed issues to be unchecked for years.

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The Mental Health

Over recent years, the NFL has been under scrutiny to create a better culture for mental health awareness.

In May 2019, the NFL Players Association and the NFL agreed to form the Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee. Comprised by a panel of doctors appointed by both groups, each team member has issued a mandate to employ a behavioral health team clinician.

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According to reports, seven teams had a full-time clinician by late last year, and the rest of the clubs employ someone in the role for at least eight hours each week.

Still, players are suffering at high rates from mental health issues, affecting them into retirement.

“I think the NFL is a dinosaur in that respect,” Aaron Rodgers said to The New York Times. “There’s a stigma around talking about feelings, struggles and dealing with stress. There’s a lot of vernacular that seems to tag it as weakness.”

The CTE Issue

The NFL is a violent sport.

Like boxing or bare-knuckle brawling, in this sport you are bound to get your head hit at some point in the course of action. However, the game is at a crossroads where either the sport is neutered into a safer, less intriguing product minus the extreme danger, or acceptance of a mandated shortened player career span.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head. The disease has been found in the brains of more than 315 former NFL players, and many suicide deaths have been linked back to CTE.

Boston University researchers identified CTE in 99 percent of brains obtained from NFL players and 91 percent of college football players.

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The Racial Discrimination Issue

Although Brian Flores’ bombshell racial discrimination lawsuit was filed against the NFL and three teams, the issues Flores shines a light on have been around forever.

It has affected the way players and personnel feel about hiring practices of the game and served as a subtle reminder of a skewed power structure in the league.

In 2020, African-American players made up approximately 57.5 percent of NFL team rosters. However, currently there is only one African-American head coach.

From the early NFL teams’ initial reluctance to hire a starting African-American quarterback to the lack of African-American head coaches, racial discrimination is pervasive and only lightly dissipating.

Until the ownership ranks reflect the player ranks, there will never be an even playing field in the NFL.

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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.