Professional and college football exert so much influence over society they have been allowed to dodge accountability for "epidemic" drug abuses and for a more recently publicized problem with domestic violence, Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton told Newsmax TV
"I don't care how much we like our football; we've got to stand up and be counted on this type of stuff," Tarkenton, a businessman and media personality, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner, reacting to developments this weekend that raised more questions about the NFL's conduct.
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Drug Enforcement Administration agents paid surprise visits
on Sunday to three NFL locker rooms to question team officials after games about the handling of prescription painkillers for players. The raids did not lead to any arrests or property seizures.
The New York Times documented more coziness between football and law enforcement with an article on Sunday about a Miami Dolphins' lineman, Phillip Merling, who got preferential treatment
from sheriff's deputies in Florida after his arrest in 2010 for allegedly striking his pregnant fiancee.
Tarkenton said the Merling story fit a pattern of "cover up" that extends from professional football into the game's college ranks.
"How about Florida State and domestic violence with Jameis Winston?" he said, citing reports that the quarterback for the nation's top-ranked college team was shielded from a thorough investigation of a sexual assault allegation
"You have law enforcement, school administrators, head coach, everybody [doing] anything to protect Jameis Winston from all the stuff that he's done and let him … play football for Florida State because they are a better football team with him," said Tarkenton.
"It's the power of football on the collegian level and on the pro level," he said, "and this domestic violence has been covered up for years."
Tarkenton used the same language to describe professional football's attitude toward rampant use of painkillers to keep injured players on the field and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to increase their muscle mass and physical stature.
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"The painkillers have been there since I was playing in the '60s and '70s," he said. "They injected me with butazolidin, among other things, into my right shoulder. When I retired I had to have my right shoulder replaced.
"Now it's become epidemic," he said. "They are giving these guys high-powered painkillers — whether they're legal or illegal, I don't know. But they're in that locker room every Sunday. They're on that plane going home every Sunday night, and it's out of control."
But he doubted that Sunday's spot inspections by the DEA would have turned up anything.
"The NFL's not going to get caught by surprise," said Tarkenton.
Tarkenton also called the systematic use of PEDs in football "another giant cover up," but one perpetrated more by the players themselves.
"They don't want anybody to know, after they retire, that they were able to perform at a high level because they had help," he said.
"Shame on them for not being able to come forth and say, 'These PEDs are killing people, [and] causing injury,' " said Tarkenton. "It makes people bigger, stronger, faster and more violent — and that's causing premature deaths by players of this generation."
Tarkenton said it falls to the media, the public and former players like himself to keep the "pressure" on football to clean up its act.
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