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Antonio Brown Threatens to Quit Over PPE's

The WR is refusing to upgrade to a newer, safer, league approved helmet

Kris LaGrange's picture
Aug 12, 2019

Antonio Brown was one of the big free-agent signings in the NFL offseason, but he seems to have only been trouble for the Oakland Raiders since the signing and he hasn’t even gotten on the field. Now Brown is threatening to retire over an equipment issue.

Brown’s problem is that he is upset over a change that was made by the NFL and the Players Association (NFLPA) to phase out an older helmet in favor of a new design that helps to reduce brain injuries. The helmet in question is over 10 years old and is no longer certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).

While Brown is making a big deal about the change, it has been in the pipeline since 2017 when the league and the NFLPA agreed to an agreement that all players must wear NOCSAE-certified helmet models. Players were given a one-season grace period to switch their helmets. The vast majority of the league made the change, but 32 players played the 2018 season with a non-NOCSAE certified helmet, including Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady and Brown. NFL rules also do not allow a player to use the same helmet for more than 10 years. Brown has been using his helmet for 12 years and it has been the only helmet he has used since college, so a change was coming for Brown regardless of the new safety standard.

Brown is on a bit of an island with this fight. Although he is currently going through arbitration with the league on the issue, the Players Association is in support of the change. Helmets, just like a hard hat for a construction worker, are vital pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) that keep you safe on the job and ensure that a construction worker or football player goes home safely each night. The NFLPA, just like many other unions, has put extensive research into figuring out what the safest helmets are for their members. They have teamed up with the NFL to pay for independent testing of the helmets that are worn in the league and that could potentially be used to see which brands meet their high standards and which don’t.

The goal of any union is to ensure that every one of their members arrives home safely at the end of the day and one of the ways to make that more likely is to constantly update PPE’s and safety protocols. Helmets have made a lot of advancements in the 100 years that the NFL has been around. Construction workers probably complained when they were required to wear eye protection or wear safety harnesses, but eye injuries and deaths from falls have been reduced.

With NFL players killing themselves due to traumatic brain injuries, the league and the union have to take action to better protect their players. Is it uncomfortable getting used to new equipment? Of course, it is, but like everything else, in life, you get used to it and don’t even realize the change after a few days.

While Brown fights the case in arbitration and is threatening to retire if he doesn’t get to wear his unsafe helmet, it should be noted that Brown may not be a great authority on PPE’s. The wide receiver is currently unable to practice as he deals with frostbite on his feet due to his failure to wear the proper footwear in a cryotherapy machine.

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