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Sunday, June 23, 2024

NFL Turf Controversy Grows With Union Push For Grass Fields

  • Union leader makes strident call for leaguewide installation of natural grass
  • FIFA requirements for World Cup prompt charges of NFL hypocrisy
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury could ignite a full-blown labor controversy between the NFL and its players association.

A day after the New York Jets quarterback was confirmed to have torn his left Achilles tendon, union executive director Lloyd Howell publicly called on the league to do away with turf fields.

“The players overwhelmingly prefer [grass], and the data is clear that grass is simply safer than artificial turf,” Howell said. 

“It is an issue that has been near the top of the players’ list during my team visits and one I have raised with the NFL. While we know there is an investment to making this change, there is a bigger cost to everyone in our business if we keep losing our best players to unnecessary injuries.”

Charge Of Hypocrisy

Particularly grating to the union and individual players is that FIFA is demanding grass fields be installed for facilities to host games during the 2026 World Cup — something major NFL facilities such as SoFi Stadium, AT&T Stadium, and MetLife Stadium are actively pursuing.

“It makes no sense that stadiums can flip over to superior grass surfaces when the World Cup comes or soccer clubs come to visit for exhibition games in the summer, but inferior artificial surfaces are acceptable for our own players,” Howell said.

The union and individual players like Rodgers have previously pushed the league to move away from turf without success and have limited power on the issue within the current collective bargaining agreement. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN on Wednesday that the issue is “complex” and that future league actions will be guided by science.

But as more players go down to turf-related injuries, the calls for reform will only escalate.

“This is worth the investment, and it simply needs to change now,” Howell said.

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