The Buffalo Bills are an NFL team. Doug Whaley is general manager of the Buffalo Bills. His job is to employ humans to play football for said team.
That’s why it was remarkable when Whaley said in an interview this week that football is a “violent game that I personally don’t think humans are supposed to play.”
Now listen closely: You can still hear the echoes of a record scratching at ear-splitting volumes in the NFL’s Manhattan headquarters. The hallways are still vibrating and the dish-ware is still clinking, some say.
A day later came this SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT: The Bills released a statement in which Whaley backtracked, said he misspoke and added that football has never been safer for humans to play.
And just to make sure we’re clear: No, this is not The Onion.
Whaley has been the Bills general manager since 2013. In the NFL, general managers are tasked primarily with putting together a good team. Coaches coach the players, of course, but general managers assemble the rosters based on need and salary restrictions.
I wouldn’t say that. If you look at his game log, he’s only missed three games. So is he injury prone? I wouldn’t say that. Are things going to come up with a guy like this? We hope that it gets limited in the future, but it’s the game of football. And injuries are part of it and it’s violent game that I personally don’t think humans are supposed to play and these things are going to come up. But we trust in our medical staff and we trust in each individual athlete to do what they have to do to get back on the field.
Scientific research is rapidly proving a connection between American football and longterm serious brain damage, leading many observers to question the longterm viability of a sport based on semi-controlled violence.
The general manager of an NFL team saying football is too violent for human participation is about as bad a misstep in this evolving conversation as NFL public relations reps can likely imagine. Cue furious backtracking from Whaley one day later, on Wednesday.
In a statement pushed out by the Bills, Whaley said he “used a poor choice of words” has “the utmost respect for the game.” He added that the NFL has “more protections now for players than ever” and also has a “very bright future,” thank you very much.
Here’s the full statement.
We’ll give Whaley the benefit of the doubt on what he really meant. He’s also correct that the NFL has taken steps to improve human knowledge about the relationship between concussions and pro football — well, sort of.
One example: In 2012, the NFL pledged to donate $30 million for the National Institute of Health to continue concussion research. This was lauded as a progressive move — but a congressional committee reported this week that the league actually used its massive donation to attempt to influence concussion research in its favor.
“Our investigation has shown that while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research,” the congressional study reported, per The New York Times. “The NFL attempted to use its ‘unrestricted gift’ as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics.”
So let’s hear it for Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley, accidental messenger of the NFL’s most unpleasant truth.
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