Hines Ward Puts the Smack Down on Goodell's NFL

Steelers' leader points out the hypocrisy of the NFL's bald-faced PR stunt.

On Wednesday, just two days after the NFL commissioner’s office fined Steelers linebacker James Harrison another 25k for existing as a human being, Hines Ward did what he does best: He stuck up for his teammate.

Ward delivered a slam on commissioner Roger Goodell that would make even Harrison wince. Instead of recycling the same old “it’s a man’s game” arguments, Ward went straight at the NFL for its thinly veiled hypocrisy in handling “player safety.”

"If you were so concerned about the safety, why are you adding two more games?" Ward told reporters. "They don't care about the safety of the game.... They’re hypocrites.”

For those at the back of the class who haven’t been paying attention, the NFL and its owners want to expand the regular season to 18 games when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after this season, basically so that they can make more money off of the three advertising pillars of every commercial-binged Sunday: booze, boners and big-ass trucks.

Ward wisely picked up on this contradiction and went for the jugular. As I have pointed out before, the most comprehensive scientific study ever done on the effects of head injuries to football players concluded that it's not the big knockout hits that lead degenerative brain damage, but rather the accumulation of routine hits over time that slowly breaks down brain tissue.

An October 2009 feature article in The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell explained the real issue that the NFL is not only failing to address but is actually dismissing with two big, fat hyper-extended middle fingers. Gladwell writes:

"This is a crucial point. Much of the attention in the football world in the past few years has been on concussions—on diagnosing, managing and preventing them—and on figuring out how many concussions a player can have before he should call it quits. But a football player’s real issue isn’t simply with repetitive concussive trauma. It is, as the concussion specialist Robert Cantu argues, with repetitive subconcussive trauma. It’s not just the handful of big hits that matter. It’s lots of little hits, too."

More games = more hits to the head. And more cumulative hits to the head, even ordinary, run-of-he-mill collisions, means more players winding up as damaged as Mike Webster or Andre Waters or Chris Henry.

So the NFL is actually distracting fans from the ugly truth with its pearl-clutching campaign against helmet-to-helmet hits. The league is using James Harrison as a scapegoat to cover up the fact that it wants an NFL future that is more dangerous, not safer, for its players. Goodell will get his 18-game season and his 3,000 extra Cialis commercials per year by riding through the gates of public opinion inside the Trojan horse of a vilified Harrison.

It’s a big bait and switch.

Safety Ryan Clark seems to agree:

"It almost seems like the more flags we throw, the more fines we dish out, we can say we're protecting the game," Clark said, explaining the league’s hypocrisy. "Now, we can have 18 games because look how we're protecting [the players]."

Ward also hinted at the moral ambiguity of the NFL whenever the almighty dollar is involved.

“You talk about you don't want players to drink, but our major endorsements are Coors Light. And all you see is beer commercials,” Ward said. “You don't want us to gamble, but then there are [NFL-endorsed lottery scratch-off games].”

While most of the media headlines will focus on Ward’s thoughts on helmet-to-helmet fines, I found that quote most intriguing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when the beer commercials end and the real game begins these days. The NFL has morphed into one giant fantasy football league where offense is king and defensive players are handcuffed by an ever-changing mishmash of hall-monitor-style rules and regulations.

Fact is, we do not live in the world of Lambert and Tatum and L.T. anymore.

We live in the world of the NFL Red Zone channel. The world where you dare not land on a man with your full body-weight. The world of Peyton’s videogame offense and Brady’s sheep-skin boots.

I wonder what these distinguished gentlemen would think of Brady's precious UGG boots.

We are forever tumbling in the media spin cycle where the 4-7 Minnesota Vikings steal more headlines than the 8-3 Chicago Bears because the purple and gold have more viable fantasy football options and more soft news subplots than the boring Monsters of the Midway. The Vikings are nourishment for the search engines and talking-head nincompoops that rule the day. The Bears are just a boring, good football team.

Ward is right. The NFL is trying to sell you something. In fact, it always has been.

The problem is that now the league is hawking an outright lie. And a dangerous one.  

According to science, the game is as hazardous as ever, no matter how many invoices Goodell sends to Harrison’s mailbox. Football is inherently violent, even on the quiet two-yards runs that happen while a color commentator yawns his way through a promo for “Two and a Half Men.”

So don’t blame the Steelers if they continue to play the game with ferocity and reckless abandon, checkbooks be damned.

"We're going to keep playing the way we always have been playing," said Ward, who makes his living over the middle of the field while missing an ACL in his left knee. "If they fine us, they fine us. It's football.”

It’s football. For now.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Chuck Noll: A Man for All Seasons

Chuck Noll: A Man for All Seasons

Two years after Chuck Noll’s death, University of Pittsburgh Press prepares to publish the first definitive biography of the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach. Pittsburgh Magazine is proud to share an interview with author Michael MacCambridge and an exclusive excerpt of “Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work,” scheduled for release in October.
The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

Renovation is under way at nearly all of our area colleges and universities. For students heading back to school this fall — and their parents — we offer this crash course on the highlights of these projects and their projected benefits.
Fall Fashion: In the Black

Fall Fashion: In the Black

The little black dress, and shirt, and pants, never go out of style. Add mystery to your wardrobe with these easy-to-accent autumn staples.
Apteka: A Taste of Home

Apteka: A Taste of Home

Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski bring top-notch vegan, eastern European cuisine to Bloomfield.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Zing Basket Promises Speedy Grocery Delivery to Your Door

Zing Basket Promises Speedy Grocery Delivery to Your Door

The online grocery delivery service opened this week, promising delivery in 45 minutes or less to selected neighborhoods.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Where to Go at the Three Day Blow

Where to Go at the Three Day Blow

Our dining critic (and Three Day Blow organizing committee member) has a roundup of some open to the public events.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Comic Shops in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Comic Shops in Pittsburgh

These comic book shops offer more than just your casual Batman or Spider-Man choices.

Comments


New Industry Public House Location Up to Par

New Industry Public House Location Up to Par

If you’re in need of a dining option that’s not a national chain while visiting the Robinson area, this is one to keep in mind.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Le'Veon Bell Talks The Talk But Can’t Walk The Walk

Le'Veon Bell Talks The Talk But Can’t Walk The Walk

The Steelers running back emphasized his latest suspension resulted from missed random drug tests, and not a relapse into the marijuana-induced haze that got him jammed up last season. But if you lack the maturity to grasp the consequences of your actions (or, in this case, inactions), does it really matter?

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Custom Made: The Surmesur Suit

Custom Made: The Surmesur Suit

Straight out of Canada, the custom menswear store opens its first U.S. location in Pittsburgh.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
'Hands of Stone' Keeps the Boxing Movie Genre Strong

'Hands of Stone' Keeps the Boxing Movie Genre Strong

Reviews of "Hands of Stone" and "Don't Breathe," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Lucky Ones: Katie Doré and John Potter

The Lucky Ones: Katie Doré and John Potter

Want even more Real Pittsburgh Weddings? We'll be bringing them to you throughout the fall, beginning with this lovely and lucky couple.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Put a Lid On It! The Container Store Coming to Pittsburgh

Put a Lid On It! The Container Store Coming to Pittsburgh

The store famous for carrying storage and organizational products is set to open at the revamped Block Northway in Ross Township.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Two Events Planned for Prospective Waynesburg Students

Two Events Planned for Prospective Waynesburg Students

A fall visitation day and a Saturday information session aim to allow interested students a look into life at the university.

Comments

Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags