The NFL simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing


Once again, the NFL has proven that despite the pressure on the American psyche, it cannot be trusted to do the right thing without the threat of legal action.

Tua Tagovailoa became the face of the NFL’s latest scandal as he lay convulsing on the Cincinnati turf last Thursday night with his second apparent concussion in five days. Seeing the Dolphins’ young star in trouble sparked national outrage because it could have been avoided.

It didn’t take a medical degree to see that something was seriously wrong four days ago when Tagovailoa hit his head on the turf against Buffalo and collapsed on his way back to the huddle. This was to give him an indefinite rest until he regained his powers, however long that took.

According to an “independent” NFL analyst, it didn’t take long. Tagovailoa only missed a few plays in that game and was cleared to play on short rest against the Bengals.

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You know what happened next.

Still, it took an outcry from the NFL Players Association and medical professionals to push the NFL to get serious. Wisely, but belatedly, the Dolphins ruled Tagovailoa out of this Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.

Does this sound familiar?

The NFL denied for years that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was a problem among retired players until it was sued and had to pay $765 million in a 2013 settlement. Has Roger Goodell learned nothing?

As for the Dolphins, they are in serious competition with the Washington Commanders for the title of the NFL’s most dysfunctional team.

This is the same franchise facing a lawsuit from former coach Brian Flores for alleged racially discriminatory hiring (and firing) practices. Team owner Stephen Ross is sitting in the corner for the first six games of the season, with his team stripped of two draft picks for alleged interference with Tom Brady and Sean Payton.

The league is one of the defendants in Flores’ lawsuit, which is joined by several other prominent minority coaches. When you read The Washington Post’s recent investigation into decades of systemic bias against coaches of color, it’s hard to believe that the NFL is justifying its hiring history.

The league recently tightened its “Rooney Rule,” which requires interviews with minority candidates for key coaching and front office positions. But many of those meetings remain formalities, as qualified candidates are rejected in favor of a hot young assistant from the coaching staff, Mike Shanahan.

This is hardly the only time the league has threatened to do the right thing.

Ray Rice’s paltry two-game suspension was proposed until video surfaced of him knocking his fiancée unconscious. This allowed Colin Kaepernick the freedom of speech to kneel during the national anthem and become the subject of controversy.

And while the NBA quickly removed Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver for his decades of misconduct, it appears it did everything it could to include and cover for Daniel Snyder, concealing the results of attorney Beth Wilkinson’s investigation and slowing its own decades-long investigation into the horrific allegations.

Tagovailoa had already suffered a career-threatening hip injury at Alabama, but surprisingly, he recovered to become an NFL starter. Now his mental health is at risk.

And, as in so many previous cases, the NFL doesn’t seem willing to do anything — until it has to.

Steve DeShaza reports for The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star.

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