Recently, former NFL Hall of Fame defensive lineman, Warren Sapp, has announced that he will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation once he dies. Sapp announced in a video with the Player’s Tribune that his once great memory has started to “deteriorate right before my own eyes.”
Sapp is not the first player to speak out about concussions, and will certainly not be the last. He believes that he needs to “leave the game better than the way he found it.”
He has spoken out about the future of football and how to help keep players, especially children, safe. One way he believes to do that is to eliminate tackle football until high school. He believes football “is about skill,” not who’s “tough.” One story that Sapp tells when speaking to the Player’s Tribune is that of Willie Brown smoking cigarettes and drinking beers at halftime of a game.
Sapp says that this was an eye-opening story for him because the culture of the NFL then was different from the culture when Sapp played. Today, players might be heavily criticized and possibly suspended for the same act. The reason this story is important is because in order for the NFL’s concussion problem to be eradicated, the culture needs to change. While the game is trying to become safer due to rule changes to protect its players, the culture of the NFL has not changed.
Players like Tom Brady have been accused of hiding concussions to continue to play. When talking to former NFL safety Erik Coleman about whether players go around protocol to keep playing, he said “Absolutely.” Players need to stop being “heroes” and should focus on taking proper care of their bodies.
The NFL can make the game as safe as they possibly can with new rules and safer equipment but the reality is that football is a physical contact sport, and unless you somehow change that, players will get hurt.
It is up to the NFL to lower the number of injuries, but it is up to the players to follow the rules and put their bodies ahead of their careers.