What do you tell a roomful of young men entering the NFL? If you are the organization about to employ them, according to the league’s website, the idea is to educate the rookies regarding NFL history, total wellness, experience, and professionalism, in that order.
The history part is simple enough. The league, which began almost a 100 years ago as a poor cousin to college football, has become fantastically popular and preposterously lucrative for the owners, who sign most of their employees to contracts that guarantee them nothing.
“Total wellness” would seem to present a challenge. More than 4,000 former players are currently suing the league from a position of less than total wellness. Some of the litigants are dead, and their families believe that’s because the NFL did not tell them all it knew about the dangers of brain damage inherent in the profession. A lot of the ex-players fortunate enough to have escaped injuries to their brains have been permanently compromised by various other injuries. So what can the NFL candidly tell the rookies about “total wellness” except that there’s still time to choose another line of work?
Among the speakers scheduled to address the rookies about experience are Adam “Pacman” Jones, who plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Maurice Clarett, who is trying to win a spot on the U.S. Rugby team.
Earlier this month, Jones was arrested for assaulting a woman in a Cincinnati nightclub. He has pleaded not guilty. Last year, he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge. Last year, he was also ordered to pay $11 million to two strip club employees injured when a gunman who said he was acting on behalf of Jones opened fire outside the club.
Will Jones advise the rookies to stay out of clubs in general, and strip clubs in particular, especially those taking fire? That would be good advice.
Maurice Clarett followed his one terrific season at Ohio State with dismissal from the university for receiving improper benefits. He moved on to convictions for robbery and possession of concealed weapons. Last year, after he got out of prison, he wrote an autobiography in which, according to one account, “he boasted of making plenty of money in college and described a life of guns and drugs.”
Clarett has said he will try to “reach somebody before he does something near as stupid as the things I did.”
That, too, is good advice for rookies at a symposium. I wonder if his book will be for sale in the back of the room?