In sports, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.
The NFL became the fortuitous beneficiary of this expression on Tuesday afternoon. Any article or piece published after 3pm ET became engulfed in the flood of the day’s biggest news: the firing of now former FBI Director James Comey.
The public relations “bullet” the league dodged was a piece by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. The article details a grievance filed against the NFL last month by the NFLPA which alleges that the NFL and its teams had knowledge of, and conspired to cover up, the improper administration and distribution of prescription painkillers by team doctors and staff.
According to Seifert, the grievance was filed in in response to the 2014 dismissal of a lawsuit by former Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent, which is currently under review in a federal appeals court.
To assist in making its case, the NFLPA opted to highlight the stark contrast between the apparent inaction taken by the league amid allegations of improper dispensing of prescription painkillers, and the disproportionate reaction and subsequent investigatory resources exhausted during the public debacle of the Deflategate scandal.
From pages 7 and 8 of the grievance:
Indeed, the Complaint indicates that the NFL was clearly cognizant of on-going legal and ethical violations by medical personnel relating to the prescription, dispensing and transportation of painkillers to players, yet the NFL has taken no disciplinary action against Clubs and/or medical personnel who committed, and presumably still commit, such violations. Having recently punished the New England Patriots to the tune of forfeiting first- and fourth-round draft picks plus a $1 million fine for alleged conduct relating to taking a tiny amount of air out of footballs, it is incomprehensible that the League has taken no action whatsoever against Clubs to redress and incentivize compliance with their Article 39 obligations towards the health and safety of NFL players.
New England Patriots fans, at this point, have grown accustomed to the fact that Deflategate will never completely dissipate. They are prepared for years of sarcastic remarks from fans of less accomplished organizations. They will continue to ride alongside Robert Kraft as he continues his “us against them” publicity tour, constantly rehashing his contempt for the AFC foes that fanned the flames of the fiasco from the start.
If there is potential for a positive outcome in the wake of Deflategate — a silver lining of sorts — it will continue to take the form of last month’s NFLPA grievance. The ability to utilize the league’s handling of the scandal as a precedent to demonstrate the lengths they will go to achieve their objective, in theory, gives entities like the Players Association ground to stand on during litigation.
The allegations stated in the grievance shouldn’t shock anybody. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find individuals who are astounded by what can only be perceived as, to put it lightly, indifference by the NFL towards issues like painkillers, CTE, and domestic violence.
No, it’s not going away. But if simply citing Deflategate can give a minuscule nudge in a positive direction to just one of these issues, is it not worth its lingering annoyance?
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