In case you missed this, a couple of days ago Vincent Jackson, former star wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was found dead inside his room at the Homewood Suites in Brandon, Florida.
Jackson was 38; a three-time Pro Bowler who last stepped onto the field almost five years ago. And while much remains unknown in regards to the cause of death, Jackson seemed to be struggling. His family had reported him missing, and he originally checked into the Homewood Suites on Jan. 11—more than a month before his passing.
Earlier today Ryan Leaf, former Charger quarterback, posted this—a sentiment that largely mirrored how I’ve felt since the news was first reported.
Or, to put it differently: Nobody in the NFL seems to give a shit.
Oh, they pretend to.
The Chargers Tweeted out this statement, likely written by the PR intern (who didn’t know Vincent Jackson) …
And the Buccaneers Tweeted out this statement, likely written (for the owner) by the PR intern (who didn’t know Vincent Jackson) …
But the hard reality is, the NFL doesn’t care about its former players. It talks a good game, it brags, it boasts—but it also leaves these men battered, broken, confused, lost, aimless and—often—penniless. It has shown little true regard for helping African-Americans join the coaching ranks, and its much-needed after-you’re-done-playing programs barely exist. As for paying retirees who struggle with CTE? The NFL does everything it can not to pay. Always. Repeatedly. Without a sliver of compassion.
If we’re keeping this real, the moment Vincent Jackson exited the game he lost 90 percent (minimum) of his identity. He was no longer No. 83, dashing down the field, hurdling would-be tacklers, helmet glistening in the sun, 60,000 fans screaming, autograph seekers stalking, meals paid for, women aplenty.
Nope—without the helmet and pads, and with a common name, you suddenly find yourself invisible and painfully obsolete. You have no real-world experience to offer. Your back is killing you. Your knees are killing you. You struggle to remember names and dates. The mansion you bought is starting to crumble. Someone else has been given No. 83.
And the NFL knows it.