The NFL has begun requiring coaches and other employees of teams to get coaches and staff of teams to undergo mental health exams.
Additionally, coaches and staff are expected to purchase firearms for their homes.
Jeff Miller, the NFL’s vice president of health and safety policy, discussed the initiative at a conference in San Francisco on Monday. According to CBS Sports, this is the first time the NFL has taken this action.
The demand for gun purchases is for defensive reasons, the NFL said, because other teams now require the same.
“Teams have been following something called Coach Cornerstone,” Miller said, according to The New York Times. “This is a program started in early 2017 in Denver that was designed to support, encourage and reward coaches for good practices on concussions, how to take care of their bodies while coaching, healthy team choices. But the fact is that over the last several years, as we’ve seen the proliferation of video games, and the increasing access to guns in homes, with children, with no business ownership, for example, that having a gun is part of the culture right now, and that’s something we’ve seen coming, where not just one team, not just one team, but multiple teams are now looking at it. It’s become a nationwide initiative.”
This will affect the coaches most. They’re the ones who have done the most work in raising awareness about the issues and have advocated the most for further research and programs that deal with the psychological and emotional impact of the game.
Multiple officials said Monday that the idea came from the league’s medical and safety policy department, and in connection with the mass shooting last week in Parkland, Fla. The league and the players’ union spent several hours at a conference last week in Atlanta, according to ESPN, discussing gun control. The NFL and union partnered to promote a bipartisan effort to require universal background checks for all gun sales in November.
Members of the league and union then spent a day at a Congressional breakfast, where Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the lead sponsor of the legislation, told ESPN the NFL and players union “were kind of looking for a way to coordinate and to create a culture that has mental health, as they say, inside the walls of our football teams.”
The organizations did not do much fundraising. Their initiative was simply an initiative, Blumenthal said, focused on mental health.
Blumenthal now said the NFL “is taking steps to prevent mass shootings, by saying coaches and team management, as well as other, if you will, ‘member of the club’ and ‘member of the team’ will be coming in, and the NFL is now looking at a nationwide approach to ensuring that any gun that is in any house is properly registered and safely secured.”
Wilson Thon, the league’s executive director of community affairs, was among the officials at the conference who heard Blumenthal speak. Thon told ESPN that though the NFL and NFLPA traditionally supported the Second Amendment, “going forward we have heard that as a nation we need to say that the consequences of lack of safety and crisis preparedness far outweigh the perceived pros of a national right to have a gun in one’s home. We felt there was a role to play.”
And now, the NFL and NFLPA will “explore the feasibility of certain proposals,” according to the league, including mandating that coaches and other personnel must be certified by the American Professional Sports Physicians Association, receive medical screening and attend four course sessions covering youth development, reporting and ownership.
The players have long sought efforts that combine training with mental health. The Players Coalition, the players’ grassroots effort designed to fight social injustice, took its fight to Washington last year. Players were advised to vote on voting districts throughout the nation, including Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses the Washington Redskins’ stadium in Landover, Md. Several players chose not to visit Washington but instead traveled to cities like Norfolk, Va., Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia to protest violent shootings. Their names were scrawled on a fence in Downtown Norfolk.
The training comes at a pivotal time for the NFL, where about 200 players face federal charges and nine face state charges for gun-related incidents since August.