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Today's Big Story

The Real Crime In the NFL

Here's a hint, it's not dog fighting.

By Richard Warnica 29 Aug 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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A couple of weeks back, I wrote a piece about men and the violent games they play. One of the sports I considered was mixed martial arts, or as most people know it, ultimate fighting.

Fans of MMA, among which I count myself, with some reservations, get used to hearing some pretty harsh things about the sport: it's human cockfighting, there's no art to it, the fighters get no money, etc.

Those critics are at least partly right. All but an elite few top fighters in the Ultimate Fighting Championship are notoriously poorly paid. And any sport that allows de facto pad-free punching to the head puts the competitors at risk of long-term brain injury.

But it's amazing to me how many of those same naysayers will attack the UFC and then happily plan their next Super Bowl party. Because for my money, there is no sport more violent and with less regard for the well-being of its athletes than American football, at least the variety practiced by the NFL.

Men’s Journal carries a piece this week on life after football for many NFL vets. It's not a happy story. While the league happily stands by as players play through broken legs, fractured backs and endless streams of concussions, it does criminally little for those broken by the game.

The story, by Paul Solotaroff, chronicles case after case of the same sequence: player gets hurt; team doctor pumps player full of drugs; player returns to the game; player’s body gives out; team cuts player; player, unable to work, with either no or very little disability from the league, sinks into poverty.

That the sport does so little to protect its players is bad enough. That a league with more than $6 billion in annual revenue then actively fights to deny those same players benefits is criminal.

So before you cluck over the things Michael Vick did to some dogs, spare a minute to think about the things the NFL does every week to the humans who play the game.  [Tyee]

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