A high-profile NFL controversy will attract the attention of a wide number of people. Inevitably, members of Congress will become involved.
Bill Pascrell, Jr., a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from New Jersey and the head of the Brain Injury Task Force sent a letter on Friday to Commissioner Roger Goodell and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross regarding the controversy arising from the Sunday and Thursday incidents involving Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
“I want to know how the hell he was on the field last night,” Pascrell tweeted on Friday, while posting his September 30 letter to social media.
The letter poses multiple questions to Goodell and Ross. Several of the questions, quite frankly, reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the league’s policies and procedures. For example, Pascrell asks whether the league will cooperate with the NFL Players Association’s investigation regarding Tua’s return to play on Sunday. The investigation, by rule, occurs jointly.
Regardless, the situation has the attention of Congress — as it should. As Pascrell writes, the incident “raises grave questions about the progress that the NFL and its teams purported to have made on this issue and how seriously the NFL is taking its commitment to player safety.”
Pascrell concludes his letter with another accurate statement: “This moment demands answers — and actions.”
Indeed it does. As explained in Playmakers, the NFL is notoriously reactive, not proactive. In this case, the NFL luckily avoided a worst-case scenario. The question now becomes whether affirmative steps will be taken to ensure that there won’t be another situation that features obvious evidence of cognitive harm followed by the inexplicable decision to allow the player to return to action in the same game — and to play again four days later.
The easiest fix is to remove the loophole that allows players to return to a game despite showing gross motor instability. We’ve asked the league whether that change will immediately be made. We’re still waiting for an answer.