15 Dark NFL Stories That We Forgot About
CW: This article contains descriptions of suicide and domestic violence. You can reach the National Suicide Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 779-7233.
It's no secret that the NFL has some history it would rather you not talk about. Problem is, between checking our hey-it's-legal-now betting apps and setting fantasy football lineups, it's hard to keep track of all the seedy underbelly stuff happening off the field. So when you're watching the NFL, don't forget about these bonkers anecdotes regarding your favorite players and team executives:
Brett Favre's Painkiller Addiction
Before he was embroiled in welfare fraud and dick pic scandals, Brett Favre began his NFL career by developing an painkiller addiction to play through injury. There's no joke here, Favre said he thought about killing himself after flushing his last pills down the toilet. Addiction is like the It Follows monster if the It Follows monster had “I'd like to speak to the manager” energy, and Favre deserves praise for soldiering through that journey. We'll save our “fourth and inches” jokes for a different column.
The Murder of Steve McNair
Tennessee Titans legend Steve McNair was the victim of a murder-suicide a few hours after putting his kids to bed. He was 36. It cannot be proven but can be safely speculated that only Dale Earnhardt has had more Bud Lights respectfully poured out in his name in the state of Tennessee.
Drew Brees and the NFL's Torture Erasure
One year before he won a Super Bowl, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Bees took a U.S.O. tour of Guantanamo Bay. You may remember Gitmo as that CIA black site were Muslims are tortured, or that place Joe Biden pledged to close after his old boss didn't. Based on his observations, though, Drew Brees thinks Guantanamo inmates are coddled with Nintendo and religion. Apparently yelling ‘torture’ is just “anything they can do to show a poor light on the U.S. military.”
Junior Seau's Gruesome Suicide In the Name of CTE
Charismatic goofball and All-Pro linebacker, Junior Seau was the picture of a California athletic golden boy. He starred for the San Diego Chargers with the thousand-watt smile a man who made millions of dollars playing football by the beach. At age 43, Junior Seau committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He left no note except the lyrics to the song “Who I Ain't.” Seau's chosen method of death recalls Dave Duerson, who explicitly asked for his brain to be studied. Sadly, more on Duerson in a minute.
Tom Brady Is The New Goop
We interrupt this discussion of the life-altering, damaging affects that football can have on a player's brain to bring you Tom Brady's secret to a healthy life: giving him money for supplements. No need to worry about CTE anymore, everyone!
The Retirements of the 1985 Chicago Bears
We mentioned Dick Duerson, but he's not the only member of Chicago's beloved Key and Peele muses not doing well in retirement. William “Refrigerator” Perry struggles with alcoholism and family members speculating if he has CTE, Jim McMahon claims he has CTE and has struggled with suicidal ideation, and Walter Payton died of a rare liver disease at age 46. One of these things is not like the others, but still, what a brutal legacy.
The NFL Shoots Itself In The Foot With Warren Moon
After winning the Rose Bowl MVP in college, Warren Moon somehow went undrafted by the NFL (read: he was a Black quarterback). He absolutely dominated the Canadian Football League for five years before becoming the first Black quarterback to win The Big Game. Today, he mentors young Black QBs navigating the NFL.
George Halas Really Didn't Want to Integrate the Bears
Speaking of being Black in the NFL, the most important person in Chicago Bears history sure didn't like that idea. George Halas played a central role in the NFL's 12-year ban on Black players. Chicago sports historian Jack M. Silverstein goes deeper on Halas here, for weeping Bears fans in need of more info right now.
Jerry Jones's Mask Off Comments
Remember when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said “we can't have the inmates running the prison” in response to protests over police killing Black people? Wonder what he meant with that metaphor.
Hey, Whatever Happened to Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Marvin Harrison's Heisenberg Tendencies
The Michael Corleone of the NFL, from his mild-mannered demeanor to all the other stuff he did that sounds like The Godfather.
The Heartbreaking Story of Johnny Knox
Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester was such a feared presence that opposing teams stopped kicking to him, so Chicago drafted a guy who ran a faster 40. Johnny Knox was unheralded coming out of Abilene Christian University, but quickly endeared himself to Chicago fans. It was short-lived, though, as Knox suffered a “you will never forget where you were when you saw it” spinal injury that ended his career a few days after the birth of his second child.
Let's Check In On That Robert Kraft Handjob Massage Parlor
Kraft got charges dropped because the cops were creepy and recorded the massages without telling anybody. The owner of the spa plead guilty, though. Kinda wild to have this story happening around the same time as Matt Gaetz seeking pre-emptive pardon for sex trafficking in the same state Jeffrey Epstein lived, right? Do we need to shut Florida down until we know what's going on?
Ben Roethlisberger's Rape Allegations
How many games would you suspend someone accused of calling in a phony TV problem to a hotel staffer and then sexually assaulting her or of raping a woman in a bathroom? The NFL decided on “six, never mind, let's make it four” games.
The Ray Rice Video
Cheating a little because anyone who's seen the video of Ray Rice cold-clocking his fiancee and dragging her body out of an elevator can never forget it. The incident coupled with emerging CTE research got many thinking about the NFL's “protect the shield” mantra (here's an article we published in 2017, three years after). Yet here we are eight years later, still watching the most popular sport in America.
You can find Chris Corlew on Twitter.