The NFL is unquestionably the most successful sports league in America, but it’s currently also mired in more controversy than its ever previously had to deal with. Between shady bounty scandals, countless health concerns and players dying from unfortunate occurrences on a shockingly regular basis, the massive revenue streams coming in haven’t distracted anyone from all of the problems at hand.
In an effort to buckle down and deal with some of the NFL’s many, many issues, the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, has come down hard on things he feels contribute to football’s current woes. Namely: violent collisions and protecting offensive players. Naturally, his adjustments haven’t been met with much happiness from players who don’t benefit from that sort of stuff. And while many have come to criticize the NFL’s Boss of Bosses, few have come out to defend him.
Here is an open letter from New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco that breaks down his league’s current predicament with a somewhat surprising amount of understanding (via ESPN):
Many of you know I have a father son relationship with Roger Goodell. I love him and just had to reach out to him with all that is going on. We are at a crucial point in the history of football. The foundation of the game is in jeopardy based on all these factors and the future of the game is going to be shaped by him.
I know it has been a rough week, so I wanted to reach out. Players dying, players suing and on top of that my peers are just going off on you in the media. It does not help that ESPN has all of a sudden become Medical TV with damn near every brain expert on the planet. This has got to be the worst week ever. Since no one is showing any support, I figured I would be the first. You are in one big ass catch 22 and quite frankly, I am not sure there is any solution. One thing I think can help is killing the NFL PR machine. Y'all do a darn near perfect job at portraying this game as one played by heroes. But let's be real dad. This is a nasty, dirty and violent game with consequences. Sign up or go get a regular job. Watch it or turn off the TV and go fishing with your kids. It is really that simple. I know there are probably legal and financial implications that prevent this blunt depiction, but am not sure if you have a choice. If you don't say it now, the mounting evidence being revealed publicly will say it for you very soon. In all, I love you and if anyone can lead us out of this mess, it will be you. Oh by the way, I have a deal for you. Am having a rebound year and plan to do a lot of celebrating in the end zone. Can my fine money go to supporting ex-players suffering?
Ochocinco and his attention-whoring ways are an acquired taste, but it’s hard to find fault with anything he wrote. He’s entirely correct. The NFL is currently in a catch-22 because it’s trying to portray itself as something it’s not – a game not about violent hits and collisions. That’s what the NFL is. That’s what the NFL always has been and will be. Fans love to see big hits, they just hate hearing about what happens after they see two giants collide.
And while reasonable people can disagree about his intentions with this letter, it would certainly be really cool if Ochochino was being honest. We always hear about players who want to bash Goodell, but very few seem to want to acknowledge that the man is in a really tough position right now. That’s not say that he’s without faults, and his dictatorial ways no doubt turn a lot of guys off – but what Ochocinco wrote is common sense. If the NFL and its players could get on the same page regarding where they go from here with violence and head injuries, it would make for a much smoother ride for all involved.
(Kudos to ESPN)