An Open Letter to Roger Goodell

Last, but certainly not least, Mrs. Rollet chimes in. Here in ends the week-long coverage to the topic. From here we turn our attention back to the games and the Steelers' march towards a return to the playoffs and hopefully well beyond. -Michael Bean-

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Dear Mr. Goodell:

I am including $5 in this letter.  The first $4 is to help pay James Harrison's fine.  I am a member of Steeler Nation, and I support Mr. Harrison.  I trust that for every dollar you receive from a fan, you will refund $1 of Mr. Harrison's fine.  The other $1 is to offset the fine of Dunta Robinson.  I feel that you have levied these fines unfairly, and I wish to register a protest.  I am all in favor of anything that genuinely makes football safer.  But the League has to deal with this issue thoughtfully and fairly, and if you are in fact dealing with this issue thoughtfully and fairly you should fire your whole PR staff.

(more after the jump)

I am a recent convert to football fandom, after 54 or so years of complete indifference to the sport.  I am hardly an expert.  But I am well-educated, reasonably intelligent, and capable of researching a subject.  As far as I can determine, the three fines you levied were not symmetrical.  The Robinson hit was very similar to the hit on the front of the "Moment of Impact" DVD that you sell in your store, and was presumably legal.  James Harrison's hit didn't even draw a flag, and essentially everyone that has studied the tape has said that it wouldn't have been a helmet hit if Massaquoi hadn't ducked at the last moment, as Harrison was leading with his arms, going for the receiver's chest.  Only the Meriweather hit was, according to general consensus, a "dirty" hit, and ironically, he received the same fine as Dunta Robinson, who was also hurt on the hit, and less than James Harrison, who appeared to have had no intent to hit the receiver's head.  Perhaps Mohamed Massaquoi should also be fined for lowering his head and thus creating a helmet-to-helmet hit.  Perhaps DeSean Jackson should also be fined because Dunta Robinson was also concussed.  Heck, while you're at it, why don't you fine the coaches who tell them to play that way?  Harrison commented that he deliberately hits high, as low hits often result in knee damage that creates more likelihood of long-term damage.  He apparently thought that he was choosing the less harmful option.  Harrison is, after all, paid to stop the receiver and/or dislodge the ball. 

And I note that the earlier hit on Joshua Cribbs wasn't even in the discussion, because Cribbs was running the ball at that point.  If Tom Brady does a QB sneak into the end zone next week and gets a helmet-to-helmet hit that results in a concussion, will the defender who took him out be fined, or is that one okay?  What about the T. J. Ward hit on Rashard Mendenhall last Sunday that hit him on the chin and snapped his head back?  The announcers seemed to think that was pretty awesome - "Yeah, Ward, he'll kiss you right on the cheek like that."  There was no apparent or visible damage to Mendenhall, but the research on head injuries that has everyone so (rightly) concerned indicates that the problem is the cumulative damage.  So why is it okay to curdle the brains of a running back, but not a wide receiver?  I gather that the reason that hits on receivers are penalized, but not those on runners, is the receiver is considered to be defenseless.  Hines Ward is routinely depicted as the dirtiest player in football, because he refuses to be a 'defenseless' receiver.  Can you understand why a new fan like me would be thoroughly confused?

I have been surprised during the discussion of this issue by how many people feel that football must by its very nature be a violent game in which the very real possibility for major injury is always present.  I personally hope that is wrong, and that it is possible to rethink the rules, equipment, and so forth so that the game is still exciting but head injuries can be largely eliminated.  So why am I sending my money and making a statement to the commission?  Well, mainly because I feel that the League is not being honest.  If you are going to continue to glorify violence as part of the game of football, then it seems to me that you can't very well single out a few players and try to make them the poster children in reverse for a kinder, more caring NFL.  I was quite appalled last year to note that your montage that began broadcasts featured a helmet-to-helmet hit, despite the fact that the League was already publicly discussing the implications of the latest research on head injuries.  And I'm still appalled that you think it is a good idea to sell a dvd titled "Moment of Impact" if you are really trying to promote a safer brand of football. 

I can fully understand that you are trying to walk a very fine line between not losing the hard-core adrenaline junkies that watch games in the hopes of seeing big hits like those on Sunday, while not turning off people like me who are going to feel compelled by their conscience to stop supporting the sport when somebody gets killed.  But in the end you can't have it both ways, and you're going to fall between two stools if you try.  Require the safer helmets, if you have any evidence that they actually work.  Or, if you have evidence that no helmets, or removing the facemasks, or using mouth guards, or any other equipment-based thing, is going to help, require it.  Give the coaches a reasonable amount of time to retrain their players in the new, safer techniques, and to incorporate the new, presumably more restrictive rules.  But don't glorify the violence in your products and your broadcast commentary and then penalize the players who risk their own well-being as they create that violence.  All that will result in is anyone with any sense of justice losing all respect for the NFL.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Rollett

 

(The above letter, including the promised $5, was sent to the Commissioner on 10/21/2010)

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