Add Peter King to the list of NFL journalists who were disgusted by the egregious head shots on display during the Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.
“That was a disgrace,” King said. “And what really hurts [the NFL] is Ben Roethlisberger saying to Lisa Salters, ‘This is AFC North football.’ Well then, the AFC North should secede from the Union.”
King, editor of Sports Illustrated’s “Monday Morning Quarterback,” expressed these views at the “Talking Football with Peter King” event in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland Wednesday afternoon.
During the Steelers’ 23-20 win over their divisional rival Bengals, two players were stretchered off the field. This included Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was unable to move his lower body after barreling head-first for a tackle.
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was also carted off after suffering a blindside hit from Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Smith-Schuster was suspended one game for the hit, along with Bengals safety George Iloka, who hit Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown helmet-to-helmet on his game-tying touchdown catch. Both players appealed their suspensions, but only Iloka got his one-game out reduced to a fine.
The uproar over the violence on Monday night is the continuation of the pressing issue regarding player safety.
“I know I was sitting in my living room watching and I can’t figure out why I didn’t turn off my TV, but my dad and I were sitting there just listing all of the reasons we didn’t like the NFL anymore,” said one of the panelists Callie Caplan, high school reporter for The Washington Post. “…Whether it was unintentional with Ryan Shazier or intentional with JuJu Smith-Schuster.”
Another issue for the NFL and its ratings has been player protests during the national anthem. However, King called blaming players kneeling for a decline in ratings “overstated and overrated.”
“If I were their parents, I would be really proud because we do have a lot of problems in this country,” King said.
Despite the reported $89 million over seven years that the NFL will being donating to social justice causes, King doesn’t believe that most players will be appeased. King said that as long as Colin Kaepernick is unsigned, players will continue to protest.
King also questioned multiple teams that passed on signing the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback in the offseason for fear of fan backlash and losing sponsorship money.
“I’d rather have a horse crap reaction and win two or three or games than do all of the safe, solid things and go 6-10,” King said.
Despite discussions over the protests and increasing attention being paid to player safety, King doesn’t see the NFL dying out in his lifetime.
“I don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon, but in a lot of places in the country, you now hear family after family after family say we’re not doing it anymore,” he said. “We’re not making that deal with the devil.”
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