Faulty prin­ci­ples re­gard­ing our beloved sport

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

The Na­tional Foot­ball League is now ar­guably the most pop­u­lar sport in the United States. Fan at­ten­dance is at an all-time high, television con­tracts are prof­itable for both the league and me­dia net­works and cor­po­rate of­fices are stacked with of­fice pools and fan­tasy foot­ball leagues. Good times. How­ever, there is a darker side to the NFL that con­tin­ues to pro­vide the pub­lic fleet­ing glimpses of a dis­turb­ing cul­ture be­hind the scenes.

The Na­tional Foot­ball League Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (NFLPA) came un­der fire this sum­mer af­ter be­ing ac­cused by for­mer play­ers of not pay­ing ad­e­quate dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits af­ter re­tire­ment. Gene Up­shaw, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the NFLPA, re­sponded to th­ese crit­i­cisms by call­ing some of the ac­cusers “dumb.”

This is hardly the way you would ex­pect an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of man­age­ment to be­have, es­pe­cially one who is re­port­edly mak­ing over six mil­lion dol­lars a year to be a voice for those same play­ers.

Usu­ally mem­bers of the me­dia are more con­cerned with crit­i­ciz­ing play­ers’ end zone cel­e­bra­tions than hold­ing ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment

ac­count­able for trans­gres­sions. On a daily ba­sis pro­fes­sional ath­letes are bat­tered by a con­stant bom­bard­ment of edi­to­ri­als or talk ra­dio rants de­signed to rile up and in­fu­ri­ate the emo­tional fan base of the sport.

Yes there are lazy, ar­ro­gant, pam­pered and spoiled pro ath­letes that pro­vide enough fod­der that can­not be de­fended by any sane per­son. Think John Rocker or Michael Vick. But there are plenty of ath­letes who are hard work­ing, fam­ily ori­ented in­di­vid­u­als who be­come vic­tims of the uglier as­pect of the sport.

For in­stance, take Troy Wil­liamson.

Wil­liamson, a wide re­ceiver for the Min­nesota Vik­ings, has re­ceived more press lately for cir­cum­stances out­side of his ath­letic prow­ess.

Af­ter Wil­liamson’s grand­mother passed away at the be­gin­ning of this month, he was al­lowed by the team to fly back to his na­tive South Carolina to be with fam­ily and han­dle the burial ar­range­ments.

Upon re­turn­ing back to Min­nesota a week later, he was no­ti­fied by coach Brad Chil­dress that he was be­ing docked a game check ($25,000) for miss­ing the pre­vi­ous Sun­day’s game against the San Diego Charg­ers while still in South Carolina.

Chil­dress ref­er­enced some ridicu­lous com­par­i­son to other NFL play­ers who also suf­fered fam­ily deaths but re­joined their re­spec­tive teams af­ter a few days.

Isn’t a coach paid to know their play­ers, re­late to them, max­i­mize their po­ten­tial and sup­port them through times of cri­sis?

Griev­ing is han­dled dif­fer­ently by in­di­vid­u­als and should not be ma­nip­u­lated to fit an agenda. Wil­liamson’s grand­mother raised him and his han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion has been classy.

He told the Pi­o­neer Press “I don’t care if (the Vik­ings) would have took my pay for the rest of the year, I was go­ing home; it wouldn’t have mat­tered to me. No mat­ter what (Brad Chil­dress) would have said, if I had to stay up here or not, I would have been at my house (in South Carolina) for that week.”

The pun­ish­ment of Wil­liamson was a pub­lic re­la­tions night­mare to the Vik­ings, who in re­cent years have dealt with a wrong­ful death law­suit by the widow of for­mer line­man Korey Stringer; a lewd con­duct filled boat­ing scan­dal and the re­leas­ing of for­mer wide re­ceiver Mar­cus Robin­son on Christ­mas Eve last year.

The Vik­ings have since re­canted and awarded Wil­liamson his game check. But in a move that proves this sit­u­a­tion was not about money, but about the love for a de­ceased fam­ily mem­ber, Wil­liamson pledged to use the pay­check to start a char­ity in his grand­mother’s name.

The NFL has con­tin­ued to show an ag­gres­sive vig­i­lance in fin­ing play­ers for danc­ing in the end zone, wear­ing uni­forms socks too high or low, yet there is no re­quire­ment for play­ers to wear mouth guards, knee pads or rib pro­tec­tors de­spite the vi­o­lent na­ture of the sport.

If you are look­ing for flawed prin­ci­ples, the NFL is chock full of them.

JaLang Greene

Colum­nist

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