The National Football League has found itself in quite a quandary: How do you make it look like you care about the players who make you millions and still make your millions? It is not an easy task.
The NFL announced this week that it was instituting a series of fines and suspensions for violent hits during league games. This was in response to several instances last weekend where players were injured during helmet-on-helmet collisions.
That is all fine and good. We can't really argue with NFL officials that the game has become very dangerous. It would not be a huge shock if one day in the near future, a player dies on the field from a helmet-on-helmet collision. It is that scary.
But the league's problem here is its culture. It has always promoted the game's violence and rarely has looked out for the players. It is hard to believe it can all change after one weekend.
Make no mistake, football is a violent sport - at all levels. Short of going to flag football or "two-hand" touch, it will always be violent. It is the nature of the game. And the NFL has profited from the violence. For years they have sold videos and DVD's of big hits. It attracts fans. Much like a driver who slows to look at the results of some automobile crash, Americans love carnage. The NFL certainly has played up that aspect.
The league has also seemingly failed to take care of their players. One of the biggest complaints from ex-professional football players is the lack of insurance, medical care and even compassion from the NFL offices.
Has it changed that fast?
No. The league has been pushing for an 18-game season. Why? Money. More games, more fan interest, more money. But what about the players? What about more blown-out knees. More torn hamstrings. More violent collisions. How is adding two more games to the schedule protecting the players? As a fan, it is great. But for a player, we can sense the nightmare.
It is a mixed message the NFL is sending. The customers - and the players - shouldn’t buy into it.
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