Chad Ochocinco, the mercurial receiver for the New England Patriots, posted an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on his website Sunday.
It's a bit goofy in that it refers to Goodell as Dad and that it ends with Ochocinco referring to his numerous fines from Goodell for his touchdown celebrations, but it's largely a fairly stark, intelligent and cutting take on the state of the NFL right now.
He suggests to Goodell that he tone down the NFL public relations push to minimize the emphasis on the violence inherent in the league and instead accept it, embrace it, and start saying so publicly before the gap between concussion evidence and what happens on the field is so great that fans start to leave.
Y'all do a darn near perfect job at portraying this game as one played by heroes, Ochocinco says in his letter. But let's be real dad. This is a nasty, dirty and violent game with consequences. Sign up or go get a regular job. Watch it or turn off the TV and go fishing with your kids. It is really that simple.
Concussions are a problem in contact sports, but the NFL has spent a long time either denying or ignoring it. It seems the league is changing its stance, to meet public pressure. But the players in the league, like Ochocinco, don't want to alter their behavior. They know the violence and what it will cost them, yet they still play.
Football has not faced a problem like this since Theodore Roosevelt mandated rule changes to limit the number of deaths caused by the game in 1905. The end of that episode gave the game the forward pass, 10-yard first downs, and spread formations.
What changes will the league have to undertake to get beyond this crisis?
Below is the full text of the letter from Ochocinco to Goodell.
Many of you know I have a father son relationship with Roger Goodell. I love him and just had to reach out to him with all that is going on. We are at a crucial point in the history of football. The foundation of the game is in jeopardy based on all these factors and the future of the game is going to be shaped by him.
Dear Dad, I know it has been a rough week, so I wanted to reach out. Players dying, players suing and on top of that my peers are just going off on you in the media. It does not help that ESPN has all of a sudden become Medical TV with damn near every brain expert on the planet. This has got to be the worst week ever. Since no one is showing any support, I figured I would be the first. You are in one big ass catch 22 and quite frankly, I am not sure there is any solution. One thing I think can help is killing the NFL PR machine. Y'all do a darn near perfect job at portraying this game as one played by heroes. But let's be real dad. This is a nasty, dirty and violent game with consequences. Sign up or go get a regular job. Watch it or turn off the TV and go fishing with your kids. It is really that simple. I know there are probably legal and financial implications that prevent this blunt depiction, but am not sure if you have a choice. If you don't say it now, the mounting evidence being revealed publicly will say it for you very soon. In all, I love you and if anyone can lead us out of this mess, it will be you. Oh by the way, I have a deal for you. Am having a rebound year and plan to do a lot of celebrating in the end zone. Can my fine money go to supporting ex-players suffering?
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