With the NFL facing criticism both from those who say the sport is dangerous and from those who say player safety rules have gone too far, Commissioner Roger Goodell is contacting fans directly.
In an email sent to fans, Goodell highlighted some of the ways the league is trying to make football safer.
“Within the NFL, safety-related rules will always be clearly defined and strictly enforced, and we will continue to work with our players, coaches, and others to identify new and safer ways to play the game,” Goodell wrote.
That may be the NFL’s intent, but the NFL still has a ways to go before it can truly say the rules are always clearly defined and strictly enforced. The new rule restricting players from delivering blows with the crown of the helmet has been incorrectly enforced multiple times this year.
Goodell is viewed by many fans as making fundamental changes to the game, but he tried to frame the recent rules changes within the context of an always-changing sport.
“There have been numerous safety-related rules changes going back decades: from the 1970s when we eliminated the head slap, to the 80s when we eliminated clubbing, to the 90s when we increased protection for defenseless players, to the 2000s when the horse collar tackle was made illegal. When we identify dangerous techniques, we adopt rules to eliminate them,” Goodell wrote.
Goodell may have been motivated to send this email now because of publicity for League of Denial, the book with a companion PBS documentary that accuses the NFL of intentionally covering up evidence that football leaves players brain damaged for life. In his email, Goodell said the NFL takes its players health seriously.
“One of the most important aspects of safety is providing players with the best possible medical care,” Goodell wrote. “We work closely with the NFL Players Association to ensure our players have access to the finest doctors and most cutting edge technology. In fact, a large part of our current Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players is devoted to health and safety protections.”
Many of the fans who received that email will no doubt say Goodell hasn’t done enough to ensure health and safety protections. Many others will say he has done too much.