By Nick Muhl
Following a Sunday full of NFL football in mid-November, the sports sections of newspapers nationwide typically highlight the many games with playoff implications. This Monday’s NFL headlines highlighted three surprise DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) raids of NFL lockers rooms, rather than the games themselves.
The three teams tested were the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers. The law enforcement officials for the DEA on site investigated and interviewed all three team doctors and trainers.
John Barr, an ESPN reporter for Outside The Lines, received confirmation from a law enforcement official , that the surprise investigations were linked back to a May 2014 lawsuit that rose concern of the three teams violating the Controlled Substances Act. All three teams fully cooperated with the DEA’s investigation. According to Sally Jenkins for the Washington Post, the investigation may have had something to do with painkillers and the distribution of them by team physicians outside of their registered practice.
Here is an excerpt from Barr’s article, a statement made by Phil Closuis, one of the attorneys representing retired NFL players in their own lawsuit against the NFL:
“I think it’s great that the DEA is taking this seriously. We alleged back on May 20th that the NFL was issuing these controlled substances and prescription medicines in an illegal manner and nobody has really disputed the factual basis of that claim.”
The fact that many newspapers and other media outlets will lead their NFL coverage with this story is a huge step forward for the NFL and will hopefully improve public relations. It is no hidden fact that the NFL has remained under siege of the media, fans, and others concerning the safety of their athletes and the lawsuits and accusations being made by former NFL players. This investigation is directly related to the NFL changing its enforcement of the safety and health codes it has now put in place in hopes of preventing future lawsuits and keeping the players safe.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy commented on the DEA activities Sunday, “Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found.” While the DEA may have surprised the NFL with its investigation of the three teams on Sunday, the NFL fully cooperated and that shows the NFL is continuing its effort to not only protect its players, but repair the league’s damaged image in the eyes of media outlets, and fans.