The three worst-kept secrets in recent sports history:
No. 3: The cowardly NBA has known for years that Donald Sterling was a racist, but never did anything about it until there was public outrage.
No. 2: Urban Meyer didn’t really leave the University of Florida because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
And No. 1: The NFL has been treating its players like a bunch of cattle going to slaughter for years.
What’s amazing is that it’s taken this long for the latter to finally come out of the murk and shadiness of the football locker room and into the public light in the form of recent class-action lawsuits against the NFL.
Last summer the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement deal with thousands of former players who sued the league for hiding the dangers of concussions and brain injury while profiting from the sport’s violence.
This summer brings a new lawsuit filed by former players who say the money-hungry NFL illegally supplied them with addictive narcotics that numbed their injuries so they could play in games and then led to future medical complications. The suit also claims the league administered the drugs illegally, without prescriptions and without warning players of the side effects, in order to hasten the return of injured players and maximize league profits. In some cases, players say they were never told about broken legs and ankles and instead were supplied drugs to camouflage the pain.
Brad Culpepper, a former University of Florida and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle who is now a high-powered attorney in Tampa, says you can expect the NFL to settle this suit as well. Why? Because anybody who’s ever played in the league knows that the allegations in the lawsuit are essentially true.
“NFL teams don’t want their guts on the table for everybody to poke at,” Culpepper said. “They don’t want people to know how they regulated things. … They don’t want people to say, ‘Wow, you did what? How Neanderthal is that?’ ”
Culpepper is not even involved in the current lawsuit, but he was one of the thousands of players involved in the concussion lawsuit. He knows firsthand what the league’s unofficial mantra is: “Come rain, come sleet, come broken bones and brain trauma, the NFL show must go on.”
Culpepper says he had prescription drugs doled out to him not by doctors but trainers and assistant trainers who somehow, someway, have bucketfuls of these dangerous narcotics at their disposal. Culpepper often tells the story of his second year in the league when he was on the Minnesota Vikings kickoff-return unit in a three-man wedge formation against the San Diego Chargers. He was running full speed — as was the San Diego linebacker whose job it was to bust the wedge. The resulting head-on collision was so violent that it bent Culpepper’s facemask into his face and knocked him out cold.
He spent the night in the hospital with a concussion but was back practicing in full pads two days later and played the very next week. Culpepper became part of the concussion lawsuit because it’s been documented that NFL doctors had medical evidence of the seriousness of brain trauma but did nothing to inform players of the long-term ramifications.
Personally, I’ve always thought the concept of “team doctors” was a huge red flag for conflicts of interest. The fact is many medical practices actually pay for the right to be the “official team physicians” of prominent sports franchises in their cities.
This leads to all sorts of questions. Shouldn’t pro teams be paying for the best medical care money can buy instead of selling their medical care to the highest bidder? Are NFL teams employing the most highly skilled doctors or the most highly billed doctors?
“Doctors either pay the teams or are paid by the teams and are able to put on their office door: ‘Official team doctor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,’ ” Culpepper said. “Of course, they’re going to do what the owners and coaches want them to do, and that’s get a piece of meat back on the field as quickly as possible.”
Isn’t it comical that the NFL suspends players for smoking a little marijuana but doles out dangerous prescription drugs like they’re Halloween candy?
One of the worst-kept secrets in professional sports is finally out in the open.
Instead of the Hippocratic Oath, it seems the NFL’s medical practices have been bound for decades by the Hypocritic Oath.