NFL Needs To Let Haynesworth Be Prosecuted Criminally

By Gregory Moore
Updated: October 2, 2006

SAN ANTONIO — Roger Goodell has his first real test as the new commissioner of the NFL and Gene Upshaw needs to earn his new contract immediately. These two men have a major decision to make and it needs to be the right one for the sake of the league.

In Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans’ defensive end, Albert Haynesworth, did the unthinkable. He deliberately reached down, removed the helmet of Cowboys’ center Andre Gurode and stomped on Gurode’s face twice with his cleated shoe.

Gurorde received thirty stitches just above his eye and was defenseless during this time. Haynesworth acted a buffoon during the incident and was thrown out of the game for tossing his helmet.

There is outrage this week because the actions of this football player were deliberate. A weak apology from a somewhat seemingly contrite Haynesworth isn’t enough here. Jeff Fisher, who is highly upset with the incident, apologized to the NFL nation and undoubtedly will be piling on a punishment of his own once the league adds theirs but that is not enough.

The district attorney in Nashville needs to press charges whether Gurode wants to against Haynesworth and a precedent needs to be set in this league. Thuggery needs to be outlawed in this league and it needs to start with this incident.

And thus is the reason why I say that the NFL will not do the right thing in this case. The NFLPA will not do the right thing in this case.

What’s the right thing? Suspend Haynesworth for the rest of the season without pay, have the Titans essentially ‘fire’ him for conduct detrimental to the team and league and then let the judicial system do its job of charging this player for aggravated assault with bodily intent or harm, arraign him and have him post bail, and a trial be set to where this player answers for what he did.

That’s the right thing to do in this case.

This isn’t an over reaction by a Cowboys’ fan. This isn’t a journalist wanting to see someone just hang in the wind. This is someone who knows that there is a precedent set in professional sports where a player can lose his job and face criminal charges.

Marty McSorely was arrested and charged with assault on then Edmonton Oilers’ Donald Brasear a few years ago and there have been other cases. If the NFL was serious about cleaning up the game and making sure that something like this doesn’t happen, the league and the union would be in unison on realizing that protection of a guilty party is not in the cards.

The union has an obligation to fight for Haynesworth’s employment but they have a duty and inalienable right to protect the livelihood and health of Gurode in this instance.

There really isn’t anything that should be a delay in this action by the league. By the time you read this piece, the league will have taken a few days to decide on a punishment. That’s a few days too late in my opinion.

Every media outlet has seen the footage and it shouldn’t be that hard to determine a position based upon the rules and bylaws of the player’s contract.

I’ll say it again. Commissioner Goodell and Upshaw have a task at hand that needs immediate attention. If previous instances are the gauge and standard-bearer of what kind of punishment is handed out, the punishment will not be harsh enough and Haynesworth will be playing in five weeks.

If Goodell and Upshaw want to stop this action and send a message, then they need to follow the Canadian courts and the NHL on this issue. Send a harsh message and don’t be afraid to do so.

MORE NEED TO BE DONE ON MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES When it comes to collegiate and professional athletes, many fans and sports writers simply do not understand that many of these players may be going through some mental issues of their own. In this society we treat these gladiators and warriors of sporting events as if they are gods and think that they are invincible.

There are many student athletes who have depression and face it while playing sports. According to many experts female athletes are more prone to have a mental health issue than males. Yet all can agree that, as the stakes get higher for both genders, the mental health issues also increase in severity.

Let’s keep this topic strictly to the professional male athlete. If I had to ask you to name a professional athlete that you know of that had a mental health issue, whom could you name? For me it’s Barret Robbins. Now maybe that’s because I remember the former Oakland Raiders’ center going to Mexico at the height of his career and then do a crash and burn that even landed him here in the Alamo City.

And then when I start thinking about professional athletes, I invariably look to the NFL because I am looking at one of the most ‘violent’ sports that we watch nationwide.

If there was probably a group of athletes who may succumb to mental illness, it’s an NFL player and in lieu of the Terrell Owens situation, I am wondering just what kind of health coverage the current players and retired players have in their respective packages.

It’s unfathomable for me to think that a professional football player can be a happy go lucky guy and that he is just happy to be playing. While that is a naive way of perceiving things, I’d have to accept the fact that when it comes to these gladiators, they have a health benefits plan that covers such issues.

For the current players in the league, they may have access to health benefits that include mental health issues and treatments. Many teams bring in sports psychologists and psychiatrists to monitor the team’s overall health. Often times when things like the Owens saga do go south, there is a team psychologist on staff and waiting to help the patient and family in the crisis.

But is this a common practice throughout the league? Is this something that the NFLPA has consistently asked for in the collective bargaining meetings that they have had over the years? And if it is, just what are the NFLPA’s stances on such issues like mental breakdown due to stress on the job or even such a drastic step as suicide?

If those answers may seem hard to come by then just imagine what they may be for the retired players right now.. One of the concerns this writer continuously has is that of those players who are no longer in the league. As much as I have written about their physical ailments, I think their mental ailments are just as important if not more.

If the NFLPA had any structured medical plan for these former players, did it offer mental health services for those who may have needed it then, today or in the future?

Can these retired players get a quality of mental health care that helps them live with the trials and tribulations of a normal life after playing football? And what of some players who may not be as fortunate as others.

Just what kinds of benefits, insurance coverage or assistance is truly out there for this group of former players?

These questions need to be asked because as we have seen in just a few days, mental health is indeed a tremendous part of the sports that we love to watch. And while I did single out just a small part of the population, let it not be misconstrued that professionals have a lot more mental health issues than the amateur athletes at the high school and collegiate levels.

Today’s sports world is a lot more complex and there are a lot more stresses on these athletes than maybe even a decade ago. For the sake of these athletes, more work needs to be done to ensure that they are mentally sharp as well as physically capable.