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

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

The Heinz History Center’s World War II traveling exhibit focuses on western Pennsylvania’s ties to history.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Kamayan Feast Coming To Kaya in the Strip District

Kamayan Feast Coming To Kaya in the Strip District

Executive Chef Ben Sloan will offer a festive, eat-with-your-hands spread on Tuesday nights.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

Voodoo Brewery is an enticing alternative to the many chains in and around the Waterfront.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Even as they entertained Dont’a Hightower for nearly seven hours during a free-agent recruiting trip to the South Side, the Steelers never lost sight of who they are or what they’re all about.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

The miniature bath- and shower-oil collection from Aromatherapy Associates makes every shower a luxury experience.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

Reviews of two films appearing at the 2017 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: "I, Daniel Blake," and "The Eagle Huntress." Plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
#Wedding: What’s Trending in the Wedding World

#Wedding: What’s Trending in the Wedding World

Married couples talk hashtags — and why they used them at their weddings.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get the Scoop Behind One of Pittsburgh’s Most Unique Condos

Get the Scoop Behind One of Pittsburgh’s Most Unique Condos

The Carnegie Museum of Art’s new exhibit features the works of architect Arthur Lubetz and Front Studio, including the vibrant Glass Lofts Building in Garfield.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
New Club is a Hit at Thiel College

New Club is a Hit at Thiel College

The Outdoor Recreation Club becomes the newest student organization at the college.

Comments

Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags