By Shaun King
The Intercept (2/1/18)
This ladies and gentlemen, is the most important highlight reel of the NFL this season. It’s also the highlight reel that the NFL does not want you to see.
Like every season, this year has brought us some amazing catches, breakthrough runs, and dramatic long-range field goals. But there was another kind of record hit this season: a destructive one, with an astounding 281 concussions from the NFL preseason until today, according to the league’s own aggregate statistics. That’s the most concussions since the NFL started keeping track six years ago.
The NFL has done a masterful job at mainstreaming the violence of the game, so that fans and spectators don’t feel too bad about what’s actually happening out there. No single word has protected the NFL from the true costs of this violence more than “concussion.” That word puts a protective barrier between us and what’s really going on out on the field.
Despite of all of the claims about protecting NFL players, there were hundreds of traumatic brain injuries this year.
It’s not a headache. It’s not “getting your bell rung.” You don’t have a bell. It’s a traumatic brain injury. Every single concussion is a new traumatic brain injury. In addition to the torn ACLs and MCLs, in addition to all of the horrible broken bones, the NFL diagnosed at least 281 traumatic brain injuries this season. And no document has ever quite displayed the horror of it all like “Concussion Protocol,” a film by Josh Begley and Field of Vision.
Too many of us are OK with this violence, on a conscious or subconscious level, because we don’t know these men.
In a span of just two hot days in July 2016, our nation witnessed two horrible instances of police violence against African-Americans. Filmed by innocent bystanders, we first saw Alton Sterling shot to death at close range outside a corner store in Baton Rouge, where he had been selling CDs. The next day, broadcast on Facebook Live by his fiancée, we witnessed Philando Castile, a beloved cafeteria supervisor, breathe his last breath after being repeatedly shot by an officer who wrongly suspected him of an armed robbery because he saw the shape of Castile’s nose as he drove by.
The next day, I received the first of what would eventually be hundreds of messages from then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick asking me to break down these incidents, then later others, for him. Kaepernick’s brilliance showed in his insightful questions. He had not yet taken a knee or publicly protested during the national anthem — that was still a few weeks away — but the injustices were already eating at his soul.
And it was not just Kaepernick. In those summer weeks before the NFL season began, dozens of players reached out to me. They wanted me to explain the details of police violence against African-Americans and advise them on what they could specifically say or do about injustice and police brutality in America.
It was those moments, before Kaepernick took a knee, before any player raised a fist or took a seat, that everything about how I watched the NFL began to change.
I love my sports. For my entire childhood and well into my college career, it was my dream to be a team general manager or a sports agent; these are dreams I still think about. Until my boycott of the NFL this season, I had watched football religiously every season for over 30 years. Even with all I knew about the painful reality — that the violence of the game was causing irreversible brain damage to its players — I kept watching. …
(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free to use with link by www.thecommonercall.org )