When you're watching the Arizona Cardinals take on the St. Louis Rams tonight, don't be surprised to see a new advertisement promoting all of the work that the National Football League has done in terms of player safety over the past few years.
The new ad, featuring New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and "some kid named 'Ray' " (better known as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis), features an actress playing Lewis' mother expressing her concerns about "her kid" playing football.
Brady and a few representatives from the NFL work to assuage her concerns in the 30-second spot.
"What has the NFL done to make the game safer?" the faux-Mrs. Lewis asks.
"We're developing new rules to better protect our players," replies Carl Johnson, the NFL's vice president of officiating, according to a league spokesperson.
"And over the next decade, with the NFL Players' Union, they're dedicating more than $100 million for medical research, as well as supporting the development of better and safer equipment," replies an actor dressed as a doctor, who's meant to represent the medical professionals working with the NFL to improve the safety of the game.
"Well, I feel a lot better about him playing," says the purported Mrs. Lewis.
Since fact-checking is in vogue with presidential debate season in full effect, let's briefly take a closer examination of the NFL's claims in the ad.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been a vocal force in pushing for all states to adopt youth-concussion laws. The league hosted a youth health and safety clinic during the week of the Super Bowl in February, and the Atlanta Falcons hosted a similar event in April. In conjunction with USA Football, the league's youth affiliate, the NFL launched a joint Helmet Replacement Program earlier this year that aims to replace roughly 13,000 youth football helmets in this coming year. Late last year, the league also started requiring an athletic trainer to sit in the press box of every game in order to keep an eye out for concussions on the field. Finally, in the league's new collective bargaining agreement, teams are restricted to having 14 total padded practices during the course of the regular season.
Long story short: In the past few years, the league has made significant strides in terms of player safety. In a recent interview, Dr. Robert Cantu praised the NFL for all the work they've done in this realm, especially when it comes to youth players.
Unfortunately, I can't embed the full ad here, as the embed code has been turned off. You'll have to click the link above to get to the punchline, which comes at the very end.
It's good to see Brady and Lewis collaborating in a positive manner like this. In January of this year, the two had some words during the AFC Championship Game that didn't exactly appear friendly.
Lewis isn't the only Baltimore Raven to have gotten into the concussion PSA game lately. Jameel McClain, the Ravens' starting linebacker, and Dr. Andrew Tucker, the Ravens' team physician, teamed up in September for this 30-second spot about the long-term dangers of concussions.
The video ends with McClain saying, "When in doubt, sit it out," a key principle of the youth-concussion laws now passed in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
And on that note: The Associated Press reported this week that youth-concussion legislation has advanced through both the Michigan state House and Senate, and now heads to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk. The legislation, as currently written, requires the Michigan Department of Community Health to adopt a concussion awareness training program within 90 days of the bill's passing.
A spokesman for Gov. Snyder told the AP that he intends on signing the legislation after he reviews it. Assuming there's no last-second audible and he does actually sign the bill into law, Michigan will become the 41st state (not counting the District of Columbia) to have a youth-concussion law.
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