Last month, the NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL regarding its obligations pertaining to the Collective Bargaining Agreement with respect to dispensing painkillers to players, it was disclosed yesterday in an 11-page legal filing. The grievance was filed in response to a case dismissed in 2014 that was brought against the league by former Bears defender Richard Dent.
A federal judge, according to ESPN, determined that the CBA “was the proper forum to resolve his claims”, so now, in a separate case, the NFLPA is bringing a non-injury grievance against the league through its CBA obligations. And evidence relevant to the Pittsburgh Steelers was cited in the filing.
A league memo directed to current Steelers team doctor, Dr. Anthony Yates, reads that “there was documentation of dispensing by a non-physician [despite the numerous warnings that had been going around the League since the early 1990s, as documented herein]. Please re-evaluate to insure that this behavior is congruent with federal and state regulations”.
The aforementioned letter to Yates also notes the fact that the team has dispensed an unusually high number of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to the tune of 7442 doses, during the 2012 season, which was approximately 30 percent greater than the league average for that season.
This is actually something that I have previously written about a couple of months back regarding a lawsuit filed by a collective of former players in March, which included four former Steelers players accusing both current and former members of the team’s training and medical staff of irresponsibly dispensing painkillers.
The grievance also notes a somewhat ironic testimony from Yates in 2010, who observed that most teams “had trainers controlling and handling prescription medications and controlled substances when they should not have”, an observation that evidently includes Pittsburgh.
Yates also referenced the “T-Train”, which is a euphemism (which retired tackle Eugene Monroe discussed in an article in The Players’ Tribune), referring to a line of players set to get injections of the NSAID Toradol. Yates observed that this “had been occurring with the Steelers for at least the previous 15 seasons”.
I do not by any means want to cast this as solely a Steelers issue, as it is a league-wide one—in fact, one that goes beyond football, perhaps beyond professional sports itself. The Steelers are merely one team named in the grievance, among others being the Bills, Vikings, and Bengals.
The grievance notes that the DEA is investigating or has investigated the NFL and that there have been “several incidents of team violations noted in a federal lawsuit filed by” the widow of a former NFL player.
The NFLPA is requesting that the league comply with the CBA provisions regarding the matter, that physicians found to be in violation of the provisions be fired, that discipline be put in place for teams in violation, and that an arbiter maintain jurisdiction to ensure future compliance—in addition to access to information.