The NFL has a bigger culture problem 

Increasing injuries and media working in tandem to create a negative culture 

BRANDON WILLMAN, Evergreen reporter

On the Monday Night Football broadcast between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field following a routine tackle. 

The injury itself was a freak accident, although it is adding to the ongoing list of injuries that have occurred in the 2022 NFL season. Total injuries have been down since 2015, however, in the grand scheme of things, injuries have substantially increased in the current century, according to Bleacher Report.

Head injuries specifically have increased over the year, especially on special teams plays, according to ESPN. 

In the 2022 season, the center of attention on concussions and head injuries is Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has entered concussion protocol on two separate occasions this season, with his head being slammed on the field of play on more than one occasion. 

Notably, after his first confirmed concussion against the Bengals in September 2022, Tagovailoa had to be carted off the field after being unable to walk on his own and going unconscious. 

“There was a point I was unconscious,” Tagovailoa said. “I remember the entire night up until the point I got tackled.” 

The concussion occurred just one week after he had left their previous matchup with a head injury, one that was determined not to be a concussion by the team’s doctor. Several fans and media members believed he had suffered a concussion before the Bengals game and the concussion he then suffered was worse due to his previous head injury. 

Once again, following his second confirmed entrance into the concussion protocol on the day after Christmas, many media members, such as Emmanuel Acho, former professional player and now analyst called for Tagovailoa to consider retirement due to his ongoing injuries.

“You have to shut Tua down for the season because you can’t take the violence out of the sport, but you can take the athlete out of the sport,” Acho said

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is found in 99% of former NFL players post-mortem. Several researchers believe that there is no way to deny the connection between contact sports and developing brain trauma, according to a 2017 Boston University study.

Increasing head injuries are not the only problems fostering a negative culture in the NFL; alongside employing and awarding players with pasts of sexual assault and domestic violence, prominent media members oftentimes treat players as means of entertainment first and humans second. 

Following Hamlin’s injury, the NFL postponed the game and eventually canceled it altogether as the teams were unwilling to resume play the same day. 

ESPN analyst Skip Bayless tweeted following the injury and delaying broadcast and questioned the decision by the NFL to potentially postpone the game. 

“No doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of the game  but how? This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome … which suddenly seems so irrelevant,” Bayless tweeted.

After severe backlash from the public and his colleagues alike, Bayless issued an apology on his Twitter account and subsequently apologized on air for his tweet. 

Although Bayless has a massive voice in the world of sports media and journalism, other notable figures have vocally advocated for games to be canceled. 

Former WSU QB Ryan Leaf was one of these media members who called for action from the league’s office. 

“I don’t think a player out there in preparation for this final weekend is doing that in the appropriate way,” Leaf said

However, Bayless was not the only one to share the sentiment that the game must be played. Furthermore, it was not the first time Bayless has made a comment disregarding the human aspect of the players in the NFL. 

In 2020, Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott opened up about his battle with depression and how it impacted not only his play on the field but off the field as well. 

I don’t have sympathy for him going public with ‘I got depressed,” Bayless said

It was another instance of the general public being against his take and condemning him. However, he still remains to be employed and still has his opinion continuously broadcast to millions of people due to his ability to make money for the company he represents. 

Through increasing concussions combined with the continuous platforming of analysts such as Bayless, the NFL allows for the culture surrounding its league to deteriorate into further toxicity every year.