Longtime readers know that, on occasion, I marvel at just how much the NFL and its management treat the players like children or worse. Guys get cut and their contracts get torn up for any reason or no reason, often because they have the audacity to get injured. Players get shamed for demanding to renegotiate their contract upwards when they're highly valuable, and then are shamed for not renegotiating their contracts downwards when they're slightly less valuable. Old players die young or wallow in a concussive haze, begging for reasonable pensions that never come. It's really an ugly scene when you look at it closely.
No, this is not technically about baseball, but the reason I tend to highlight these kinds of things is because it makes us all appreciate that, in the grand scheme of things, baseball is a kinder, more human endeavor than big time professional football, and that's one of the many reasons I like it.
I haven't mentioned one of these in a while, but now that we're about to be done with the baseball season and are midway through the football season, I'll probably start picking up and highlighting more examples of this phenomenon. The latest: Kellen Winslow and the Browns.
Mr. Winslow recently spent some time in the hospital and missed a game due to a staph infection. This was no random occurrence. The Browns have had an outrageous number of staph infections in the past few years, causing multiple players to miss scores of games because of it. There's obviously a problem there, and it's costing Cleveland Browns' players their health and possibly their livelihoods. For whatever reason, the Browns have been unable to address this serious concern.
On Sunday, Winslow spoke out, revealing that he had a staph infection, saying that the Browns were trying to keep it quiet given their previous issues with it, and saying that he felt slighted by not being visited by Browns officials while in the hospital. The Browns weren't happy about this. Notably, however, they have not disputed that (a) Winslow had staph; (b) that the Browns were keeping it quiet;* and (c) that no one from the Browns visited Winslow in the hospital. They just wished that Winslow had, you know, kept his trap shut about it.
*The Browns cite HIPAA laws for their silence, but it's worth noting that as I'm writing this, I'm reading update #3,497 on Tom Brady's ACL as it scrolls across the screen, and no one seems to worry about that disclosure too much.
But when you're management in the NFL, you don't have to sit and simmer. You can suspend and fine players for basically whatever you want. As a result, Winslow faces disciplinary action which, if upheld, will cost him a quarter of a million bucks in salary. All for speaking the truth about an inexcusable health problem that, after four years, the Browns have somehow still been unable to effectively address.
How is this any different than docking the pay of a demolition worker for complaining about all that asbestos his employers are forcing him to breathe? How, after what could very well be base negligence on the part of the Cleveland Browns, is Winslow the bad guy here?
But hey, this is the NFL, where the TV ratings are really high and the players are fungible, so why not go after the guy with the life threatening infection?