Dwayne Haskins’ Death Shows the Disease of NFL Culture

Dwayne Haskins throwing the football while with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Dwayne Haskins tragically lost his life, after he was struck by a dump truck on the side of the interstate in Florida. At just 24 years old, he still had the great majority of life in front of him. Joys, pains, the glories of life; all of which were stripped away in crushing suddenness.

While the great majority of the NFL community showed their support, the league’s culture reared its ugly head again. As Saturn devoured his son, a portion of the league’s media devoured a man’s honor in death.

Zero Empathy from NFL Media

Adam Schefter was, for most people, the first person to break the news. He did so in a way that focused on Haskins’ struggles in the NFL, rather than a person who just died.

Dwayne Haskins, a standout at Ohio State before struggling to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida. . .

Adam Schefter

Schefter deleted the tweet, and posted a new one that focused on Haskins’ accomplishments. The damage was done, though. Adam Schefter had taken a terrible situation and made the worst of it. Haskins’ failures in the NFL were the first thing that came to his mind.

Not even two hours later, Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt appeared on SiriusXM NFL radio to discuss Haskins’ death. What resulted was a disturbing diatribe about Haskins’ character.

Brandt said that “he was a guy that was living to be dead,” and placed the blame for Haskins being hit on the interstate on Haskins himself. At one point, Brandt launched into a story about Haskins wanting to hang out with friends and family at a bowling alley on draft night. This was somehow supposed to be a knock against his character.

Yes, Brandt is 90 years old. No, that doesn’t excuse him from launching into this rant. Even if he was asked about him from a purely scouting standpoint, he could have turned it down until a later date.

Brandt eventually apologized, but phrased it as a “poor choice of words.” Yet, the problem is that the words reveal a mindset far too common in this league. Players, even in death, are looked at as assets to be judged.

A Chronic Problem

Of course, race is the great divider in how the league treats players, and always has been. White players enjoy a standard of humanity in death. That humanity is looked at through the lens of football, but it still exists. When Colt Brennan died last year, Schefter did not focus on his pro failures, but on his successes in college at Hawai’i.

Meanwhile, the ugly saga of Sean Taylor’s treatment in death rears its head again. Taylor, despite being the victim of a burglary, was blamed for his own death by the media. Famed troll Colin Cowherd delivered his racist id’s invective, saying that one should “ask yourself realistic questions….Just because somebody cleans the rugs doesn’t mean there aren’t stains.”

Taylor was famous for not caring about what the media thought of him. At points, he was even combative. For this, the shadows of the NFL’s media saw themselves fit to judge him for his own demise.

It is no wonder, then, that players like Marshawn Lynch refused to give access to the media during their playing career. They understood that the league only cared about access, and little about them. Whatever story that they, as Black men, brought to the game, didn’t matter to the media or the league as a whole.

Haskins Deserves Sweet Remembrance

With Black athletes and coaches degraded in the NFL as such, it is logical that former Dolphins coach Brian Flores is suing the league. Black executives get no redoubt from racism because of their supposed authority. Black athletes put their bodies on the line for white owners, who care little for what happens to those players.

All these people suing for change, demanding respect from the media, and asking for people to care are just that; people. They have lives, loves, ambitions, and dreams.

Whatever there is to say about his career, Haskins has achieved so much in his short life. To play quarterback for Ohio State, and at the NFL level, is a life most would give anything for.

Dwayne Haskins was a dreamer who achieved, and that is the way he should be remembered.

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