The NFL league office can just never seem to get out of its own way.
Over the past decade and a half, the league has somehow been able to have unprecedented financial growth while simultaneously botching nearly every single social, political, and common sense decision that they have been faced with (i.e. paid patriotism, domestic violence, concussions, anthem controversy, etc.) They have been a PR nightmare by making utterly absurd decisions that are as ridiculous in the moment as they are in hindsight.
The league continued that tradition this week with the M.D. jersey controversy. Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif graduated from McGill University in Montreal in May, from which he earned a medical doctorate degree. According to reports, the NFL denied a request by Duvernay-Tardif to have M.D. added to his nameplate on his jersey. Since they made the decision, the league office has refused to give any clarification as to why they will not allow the Chiefs lineman to proudly display his hard-earned accomplishment.
Honestly, I can understand why they will not comment on their decision. What are they supposed to say? “We made this decision because there’s no rhyme or reason to any decision that we make and there is no logical reason why he can’t wear it, we just said no”? That’s really the only response they could give.
Now there are certain times in the past where these ridiculous decisions have at least made a modicum of sense. For example, during the 2015 season, the NFL denied a request from DeAngelo Williams to wear pink gear all year long (not just during the month of October which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month) as a way to honor his mother who passed away from breast cancer. This decision makes no sense morally. However, from the NFL’s perspective, it was a business decision because they used the pink gear in the month of October as a way to sell pink merchandise, and Williams wearing it all year long could take away from the novelty of the gear. Again, makes absolutely no sense morally and is even arguably wrong from a business standpoint, but at least it has some sort of argument to back up the decision.
There’s also the problem of “uniform rules and violations”, which just harkens back to the business side of it where the NFL restricts what players were because they have contracts with certain companies and do not want the gear interfering.
There is no possible way to defend the decision regarding Duvernay-Tardif from either a moral, business, or rules and regulations perspective. There’s obviously no criteria in the rules that states that a label can’t be placed at the end of one’s name. Many players, such as Terrelle Pryor, have “Jr” at the end of their nameplate. In addition, many players, most notably Steve Smith, have added “Sr” at the end of their nameplate. While having a child is certainly one of life’s great moments, it is much less common than receiving a medical degree and does not necessarily deserve any special recognition that “M.D.” does not deserve. Even from a business perspective, this makes absolutely no sense. Offensive lineman jerseys do not always fly off the shelves, but fans in the social media age love fun fads, and having a unique jersey that has an M.D. on it (of a real player, not one that someone customized for themselves) would be something that fans would jump all over. Duvernay-Tardif M.D. jerseys would’ve likely sold in stunning numbers, actually helping the NFL make money.
Earning a medical degree is hard. Duvernay-Tardif put in his time and effort and deserves the recognition for his accomplishment. This would have been a fantastic and extremely simple apolitical opportunity for the NFL to show the world that its players are more than just athletes. Instead, they fell flat on their faces and have become the laughing stock of the sports world. Again.
Until next time – B$