The NFL’s Problem

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As a society, we need to embrace the fact that the characteristics necessary to play in the NFL tend to lend themselves to violent acts off the field, although I guess this has always been the reality.

Without the Ray Rice video, I’m not sure I would have noticed all of the other players currently facing domestic violence charges: Greg Hardy who’s already been convicted, Ray McDonald and now Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer. Adrian Peterson beat one of seven children with multiple wives into a bloody pulp. And we’re only two games into the season.

Harkening back some, you have Rae Carruth who tried to kill a woman pregnant with his child. I think the Jovan Belcher murder suicide is as tragic a crime as you can imagine. You go back to the 1970s and the Green Bay Packers employed a mass murderer.

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I thought the concussion problem, apparent in Junior Seau’s suicide, would be the harbinger of death for the sport. That it would start slowly — any athlete with a choice of sports would decide against football. The concussion issue coupled with this recent rash of violent crime might expedite things. It’s weird but I feel guilty for watching football knowing it can ruin these people for forever. I would equate it to looking at stolen naked pictures of celebrities. This isn’t war — Robert Quinn isn’t going to suffer from traumatic brain injury because he was trying to liberate someone or trying to save a friend. NFL players are coal miners and CTE is the black lung.

Think about what it’s like to play defensive line or running back in the NFL. Every play, you’re tasked with attacking another man. This goes on for four hours every Sunday, 16 times in a row. Obviously guys are having trouble flipping the violence switch to neutral. This is not true of everybody. Alan Page is an NFL hall-of-famer and Minnesota Supreme Court Judge. Former Pittsburgh Steeler running back Rocky Bleier has a purple heart and a bronze star from his service in Vietnam.

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But there are an inordinate amount of violent incidents. I think part of the solution is that the players, through the union, need psychiatrists and psychologists for every team, available year round. Maybe this would be an ineffectual measure because the Baltimore Ravens have a psychiatrist on staff, David R. McGuff, and obviously it didn’t do Rice any good. However, it seems like a lot of Dr. McGuff’s emphasis is trying to get players to perform, you know because he’s employed by the team.

The NFL also needs to reconsider it’s drug policy. They should stop testing for weed because A. who cares? and B. weed makes domestic violence less likely. There might also be traditional pharmaceutical solutions to players with anger problems. Counseling would be a good idea too.

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