By Griffin Olah
October 29, 2019
Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.
Kelechi Osemele is an eight-year NFL veteran offensive lineman. He has suited up for the Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets with great success, making two Pro Bowl teams. This season, he experienced something a lot of NFL players go through: an injury. In training camp, Osemele suffered a labrum injury, but continued playing. He then reinjured the same labrum in a September 22 matchup against the New England Patriots. Still, Osmele continued to play. On October 2, however, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum after his injury against the Patriots. Here is where the story of Kelechi Osemele diverts from the path of normalcy in the NFL.
On October 2, Osemele decided he wasn’t healthy enough to practice. He was nursing a torn labrum, an injury to the shoulder that made moving 300 pound lineman incredibly difficult and painful. He sat out that week, and on Saturday October 5, the Jets fined their offensive lineman. Osemele continued to sit out of practice as he considered options for his shoulder. The Jets felt Osemele “could’ve played through” his injury and had surgery in the offseason if it was necessary (Cimini, 2019, para. 11). Osemele went to see other doctors and get other opinions, with two separate doctors recommending surgery. On October 25th, Osemele underwent surgery on his torn labrum and a cyst that developed near the injury without the team’s permission. Throughout Osemele’s absence, the Jets fined him for conduct detrimental to the team, taking away each week’s game check, the maximum amount possible under the current CBA. With his contract, this amounted to a $579,000 fine each week, simply for missing practice and doing what he believed was the best option for his body (Cimini, 2019). Finally, on October 26, the Jets released Osemele outright.
The media as a whole has sided with Osemele on the issue. Many news outlets point to the lack of comment from the Jets, who “have yet to comment since the dispute came to light” (Cimini, 2019, para. 7). Having a team embroiled in a conflict with a player surrounding his body is a bad look, and not releasing a comment on the situation can make the team look even worse. Others have taken the opportunity to bash the archaic rules of the NFL about player safety and player power. They talk about how “players have little reason to trust teams,” even after the NFLPA got players the right to a second opinion (Powell, 2019, para.17). For years, the NFL only allowed contracted players to speak to team doctors, and in the instance of Kelechi Osemele, that only led to more injury and a greater problem.
In this instance, the media is on the right side of the battle. Kelechi Osemele is a football player, but he is also a person and deserves control over his own body. If he doesn’t think he is healthy enough to play and has unaffiliated doctors recommending he go under the knife, he has the right to that surgery to better his own life. This is a point that the media rightly does not dispute as they champion for player rights and fair treatment. The problem, however, lies in the lack of exposure. This is not a headline story, though it should be. A player is taking on the NFL over injury treatment in the league, and possibly taking legal action. Sure, it isn’t a concussion or other brain injury that draws the attention of the masses, but it deserves the same, if not more attention. The NFL is treating its players poorly, and the media needs to make that known. Articles can be written from many perspectives and attack various levels of the league, but without constant exposure and the knowledge of the public, the story of Kelechi Osemele’s fight will go unheard and the NFL can continue with its detrimental ways.
Cimini, R. (2019, October 26). Jets cut Kelechi Osemele amid injury dispute, surgery. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/27934491/jets-cut-kelechi-osemele-amid-injury-dispute-surgery
Powell, M. (2019, October 28). A player with shoulder pain, and a league happy to turn its back. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/26/sports/football/jets-osemele-injury.html