Defensive back Hamza Abdullah was selected in the seventh round of the 2005 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he spent the next seven seasons in the league with four teams. Abdullah was never a superstar, but he did outlast the average NFL player in career length, which would seem to be an admirable accomplishment in that narrow window.
I spoke with Abdullah and his brother Husain in 2012 about their NFL careers, their Muslim faith and their need to balance the physical demands of professional football with the requirement that people of their faith must fast during the holy month of Ramadan. I found both men to be interesting and articulate, with strong belief structures, which made Hamza's outbursts on Twitter all the more atypical and alarming.
If you want to check out Abdulla's Twitter feed, the link is here -- but be warned, it's not advised for kids or for a workplace environment. Abdullah put his social media settings on blast today. Here are some of the edited tweets:
F--- you NFL for doing your former players the way you're doing em.... F--- you NFL for lying to these people and denying the fact that football causes brain damage. ... Every player understood the risks of playing football, and we did it, and would do it over again! ... We just thought/assumed we would be taken care of after we were done. ... F--- you NFL for denying players their benefits and making us go through all these f---ing hoops. ... F--- you NFL because you are the plantation and WE are the slaves!!! #IfYouThinkOtherwiseYouAreDelusional ... F--- you NFL for that slave trade you call the "NFL COMBINE", where you strip us of our manhood. ... F--- you NFL for wanting players to kill themselves so you can show the "SLAVES" what life off the plantation is ...
There's a reason 80% of former players either go broke or get divorced within 5 years of leaving the game. ... It's not poor choices by the player, it's the f---ing NFL loading the gun, and us pulling the trigger. ... F--- you NFL for not taking care of players families. ... How many former players have to kill themselves before you guys f---ing realize, that they're pushing us to it. ... I've thought about that, and the only reason I won't, is because I'm Muslim. ... But I do think about if my families life would be better, if I wasn't here. Every time I go to sleep, I pray that Allah takes care of my family, just in case I don't wake up. ... And quietly, I'm disappointed sometimes when I do wake up.
I'm married to a beautiful wife, have 3 beautiful children, and my financially GOOD, yet I don't want to wake up. ... There's a problem with that. I fear the thoughts that creep into my head. And I guarantee you others are having them ... F--- you NFL for lying to these parents and pushing stats that says soccer causes more concussions. ... F--- you Roger Goodell. You would sell your f---ing soul for a dollar.
Abdullah went on to rail against injury waivers and the non-guaranteed status of NFL contracts, but the disconcerting part obviously comes when he expresses suicidal thoughts. He later said that all former NFL players should see psychiatrists, and that the NFL should pay for it. Hard to argue the point about seeking counseling, especially given the sad history of former players who have harmed themselves with the potentially devastating effects of the game in mind. Former NFL great Junior Seau's battle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was brought to the forefront of public awareness when Seau took his own life in May 2012. CTE, a brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head, often results in wild mood swings, irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression. The suicides of former NFL players Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson have also been linked to brain injuries.
On Aug. 29, the NFL settled lawsuits with over 4,000 former players, who contended that the league hid the long-term effects of concussions and other injuries for decades. The $765 million payout, which did not include legal fees, has not yet been approved by the presiding judge, Anita Brody. Judge Brody recently delayed the approval hearing so that the financial experts assigned to the case could assess whether the settlement amount would cover all the impaired players.
Hopefully Abdullah -- and all current and former players undergoing similar struggles -- will find ways to get the help they need in the interim.