Report: NFL Star May Retire Over Helmet Dispute

Jason Scott Headshot

Professional athletes bumping up against rules and regulations regarding their equipment is nothing new, but what Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown is threatening is probably a first.

ESPN reported on Friday that Brown, who stands to make more than $30 million over the next two seasons, is mulling retiring from football entirely if he’s not allowed to wear his preferred helmet — one which has been discontinued by its manufacturer according to ESPN.

NFL rules will prohibit Brown from wearing the helmet, believed to be a Schutt Air Advantage, because the model is more than 10 years old and thus not certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). The league, in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, has an approved list of 34 helmet models which players are allowed to choose from, half of which are manufactured by Schutt. 

Brown has complained that the best helmet alternative from among the approved models will inhibit his vision. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune points out that despite the inherent silliness of the situation, the NFL policy of requiring NOCSAE approval for helmets may be flawed. After all, if the NFL had concerns about the safety of Brown’s preferred helmet, it shouldn’t have let him wear that particular design throughout his NFL career. Likewise, despite improvements to helmet design, none can prevent a concussion. 

The dispute ultimately comes down to a technicality. If Schutt continued to manufacture Brown’s preferred helmet, it’s likely it would test the same as it had previously. The mere fact that the manufacturer isn’t producing the helmet makes it ineligible for testing. 

How this situation resolves is an open question, but it’ll be worth watching how the involved entities respond. Will Schutt custom-manufacture a helmet just for Brown? Will the Players Association, which is in the business of siding with players over the league, support Brown? If Brown flouts the rule and wears his preferred helmet despite rules prohibiting him from doing so, will the NFL penalize him, and if so, how? 

Also — how will all of this affect your fantasy football draft?

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