There are always certainties when talking about Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. His defensive tackle style, starting at the University of Miami, and then continuing with the Bucs and then, finally the Raiders, was always full force and warp speed.
And so too, was the controversy that followed him throughout his playing days and even after his career. Oh, and another certainty: you always know where Sapp stood (stands) on any issue, because he will let you know. Loudly.
So, when he spoke out Tuesday afternoon on “The Players Tribune” website about concussions, memory loss, and other post playing days topics on the toll the game can take on its players, of course it was “loud,” even without yelling.
Here’s the link to the video of what Sapp had to say Tuesday:
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) June 21, 2017
Obviously, Sapp wanting to donate his brain for concussion study and coming clean on what he describes as memory loss that he believes is worsening already (Sapp is only 44) are the big takeaways. And whenever someone who played at the highest levels: All American in college, All Pro and Super Bowl champ in the NFL, and eventually Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, is saying it, it is obviously carrying more weight.
Sapp also talked to the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday night and likened the NFL owners and their stances to another controversy from the last 25 or more years. “When I got that information that shared all the quotes from the NFL owners, it was almost like big tobacco. Like cigarettes. Then they come out with Football is Family?,” he said. “When you’re a family, you protect the baby, the weakest link.”
To that end, we at F.F.I. find it interesting that Sapp said in his video that he is joining the growing group of concerned people that wants to see early and even, youth football, do completely away with pads and helmets until the high school school level.
With the popularity in Florida especially, it is far fetched that tackle football with helmets for younger players would be done away with anytime in the next, say, decade. Then, again, the research and examples are undeniable and gaining steam. And, if enough prominent voices, like Sapp’s, are speaking up, it could create a critical mass. And, the already popular “Flag Football” may completely replace tackle until high school.
Sapp is not without his flaws, but his play on the field and the status it gives him to speak up are big leverage for causes like safety in the game of football.
And him choosing to use that leverage is only going to promote two things: discussion and potential reform.
And no one can argue that those are bad.