For all the words used to describe the NFL over the decades, “drug dealer” isn’t one of them. A league that has such a stringent policy on marijuana and other illegal drugs surely holds itself to a high standard in regards to pain killers, uppers, downers and other prescription medicines, right? Reportedly, no, that is wrong: A bombshell lawsuit filed by former players claims the NFL makes junkies out of its players in order to maximize profits.
The lawsuit names eight players — Richard Dent, Jim McMahon, Jeremy Newberry, Roy Green, J.D. Hill, Keith Van Horne, Ron Stone, and Ron Pritchard — and seeks class-action status, with more than 500 other former players having signed on.
Via the AP:
The league obtained and administered the drugs illegally, without prescriptions and without warning players of their potential side effects, to speed the return of injured players to the field and maximize profits, the lawsuit alleges. Players say they were never told about broken legs and ankles and instead were fed pills to mask the pain. One says that instead of surgery, he was given anti-inflammatories and skipped practices so he could play in money-making games. And others say that after years of free pills from the NFL, they retired from the league addicted to the painkillers.
This is, of course, a horrifying set of accusations. This is more than ignoring concussion symptoms or providing what proved to be insufficent padding — this shows that NFL employees actively disregarded player safety in order to get them back on the field more quickly, health be damned.
Now, the question must be raised: If you told a member of the 1985 Bears that taking this painkiller can lead to horrible side effects down the road, would he have declined the pill and sat out a game, or the NFC Championship, or Super Bowl? Doubtful — it was a different time, in which getting your bell rung meant just that, and only that, rather than a sign your brain had been irreparably damaged. But before you go blaming the players or insisting they knew what they were getting into, read this:
McMahon says in the lawsuit that he suffered a broken neck and ankle during his career but rather than sitting out, he received medications and was pushed back on to the field. Team doctors and trainers never told him about the injuries, according to the lawsuit.
Van Horne played an entire season on a broken leg and wasn’t told about the injury for five years, “during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain,” the lawsuit says.
Former offensive lineman Jeremy Newberry describes lining up in the San Francisco 49ers’ locker room with other players to receive powerful anti-inflammatory injections in their buttocks shortly before kickoff. Newberry played for San Francisco from 1998-2006, including one season in which he played in every game but never practiced because of pain from his injuries, according to the lawsuit.
And this (emphasis ours):
“I was provided uppers, downers, painkillers, you name it while in the NFL,” plaintiff J.D. Hill, who played for seven years in the 1970s, said in a statement. “I became addicted and turned to the streets after my career and was homeless.Never took a drug in my life, and I became a junkie in the NFL.”
Neglecting to tell a guy he has a BROKEN NECK? Shooting players up with anti-inflammatory injections before kickoffs? Getting a guy so addicted to pills that he loses his house? Former NFL players have found a smoking gun: Their own destroyed minds and bodies. Hopefully, things are different in 2014 — but if they aren’t, this lawsuit will be the harbinger of serious change.
Here is the full lawsuit.
This article was republished with permission from the author, Eric Goldschein of SportsGrid. The original article can be viewed by clicking here.