Thursday Night Football Needs to Go

Max Sosland

The conversation on National Football League (NFL) player safety began May 2012 when retired linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide, just two years after he retired. Because of the consistent rise of concussions and brain injuries, the NFL has made player safety and health a high and urgent priority.

There have been many rule changes about this issue that have received mixed reactions from both football fans and players. Kickoffs have been moved from the 30-yard line to the 35. Defensive players have been limited on how they can tackle a defenseless player. The NFL has implemented extensive rule changes to protect the players’ health, yet they are being the most hypocritical in that department.

Starting this season, the NFL scheduled games every Thursday night. Every player needs the proper time to recover from a very difficult, physical game, and with these new games, the players have only three days to recover.

“I mean, if you’re so concerned about player safety then why do you have every team in the league playing on Thursday night when they just competed on a Sunday, knowing how difficult it is for guys to get back to being healthy after playing on Sunday?” said San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin in an online chat with the Bay Area News Group.

Seau, throughout his entire 20-year career, was never listed by his teams as having had a concussion, but was found to have suffered from the chronic brain damage that has been found in many deceased NFL players, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Symptoms are only beginning to be understood, but they include drastic mood changes, memory loss, and dementia.

CTE is caused by repeated head trauma and is a progressive disease. There is no agreement about the prevention, or the overarching cause, of CTE. However, rest after a game in which players inevitably suffer through repeated head traumas would be essential to attempting to slow the development of this debilitating disorder.

“The only way we can improve the safety of players, restore the confidence of our fans and secure the future of our game is to insist on the same quality of medical care, informed consent, and ethical standards that we expect for ourselves and for our family members,” said the NFL Players Association in a statement to Congress. “This is why the players have asked for things like independent sideline concussion experts, the certification and credentialing of all professional football medical staff, and a fairer workers compensation system in professional football.”

Every human being needs rest to operate fully, and this is especially true for football players. These men fight through every game and require the time necessary to recover. Because games are now being scheduled on Thursday nights on a regular basis, this basic, supposedly inalienable right to rest and recovery is being infringed.

As of now, there is generally one Thursday Night Football game a week, but that could change. According to the Wall Street Journal, the league is considering adding more, but not for the primary reason that most would want.

“Adding another several hours of football on Thursday nights would have significant implications in the TV industry,” the league said.

The NFL has become a business. National games draw millions of viewers, with even larger profits. Greed has overtaken the true purpose of the game: the love and passion for the sport. The National Football League and Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to forget about drastically increasing profits; they will continue to come because Americans’ love for the game will never die. The greatest concern over all needs to be player safety, and the first step toward prioritizing player health would be by eliminating Thursday Night Football.