Over the past couple of years, the NFL has been at the core of a multitude of socio-political issues including mental health, domestic violence, and the latest race relations debacle after former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick accused the league of colluding against him being employed in the league after openly protesting police brutality against civilians in America. Now, the NFL and its alumni are facing criticism once again for their reaction after Buffalo Bills’ defensive back, Vontae Davis, decided to end his ten-year professional football career during halftime this past weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Davis, 30, began his rise to prominence in the NFL after being drafted 25th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins following his collegiate career in Illinois. Davis spent three years with the Florida franchise before signing a multi-million dollar deal and spending six years as a starter for the Indianapolis Colts which later led to this year’s one-year $5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills.

Initially, Davis’ absence after halftime remained a mystery to the general public, fans, and sports media alike but later, Bills’ linebacker, Lorenzo Alexander, was the first to reveal that Vontae Davis had officially retired mid-game as ESPN’s, Chris Mortensen, later stated that Davis changed into his casual attire and left the stadium during halftime via Twitter.

Davis released a full statement via his Instagram that reads,

“This isn’t how I pictured retiring from the NFL.

But in my 10th NFL season, I have been doing what my body has been programmed to do: Get ready to play on game day. I’ve endured multiple surgeries and played through many different injuries throughout my career and, over the last few weeks, this was the latest physical challenge.

But today on the field, reality hit me fast and hard: I shouldn’t be out there anymore.

I meant no disrespect to my teammates and coaches. But I hold myself to a standard. Mentally, I always expect myself to play at a high level. But physically, I know today that isn’t possible, and I had an honest moment with myself. While I was on the field, I just didn’t feel right, and I told the coaches, ‘I’m not feeling like myself.’

I also wondered: Do I want to keep sacrificing?

And truthfully, I do not because the season is long, and it’s more important for me and my family to walk away healthy than to willfully embrace the warrior mentality and limp away too late.

This was an overwhelming decision, but I’m at peace with myself and my family. I choose to be grateful to God for allowing me to play the game that I have loved as a boy until I turned 30 years old. I choose to be grateful to God for being a part of the NFL and making lifelong friends over the last decade. There were roadblocks and pitfalls along the way, but I am grateful to God for all of it because he doesn’t promise any of us an easy journey.

Lastly, I am grateful to God for what he has in store for me ahead, in this next chapter of my life.”

 

Vontae Davis’ retirement came as somewhat as a surprise to the NFL community as some respected his decision and others such as ex-NFL lineman, Damien Woody, took his choice as disrespect and even threatened to fight the now retired cornerback on ESPN’s First Take.

As ordinary civilians and journalists, we find Davis’ decision to retire as respectable, noble, and a clear indication that he wants to take his post-retirement future into his own hands and be the able-bodied man he deserves to be for his family. In the past, we’ve witnessed NFL alumni push their bodies beyond their limits which have resulted in permanent physical and psychological damage as awareness of repetitive brain trauma injuries such as CTE [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy] have become a common conversation for both sports enthusiasts and participants in recent years.

Unfortunately, the NFL lacks a post-retirement insurance plan that protects its athletes from developing conditions and their sustained physical ailments following a player’s career. What Vontae Davis was doing was protecting his investment in living a normal life following football which has a very short shelf life of 5-7 prominent years. With that said, can you blame him?

The professional sports realm is cruel in regards to the preservation of their participants as well as their stars as they age. Many athletes are forgotten following their playing careers which can cause severe emotional and psychological suffering for years to come if an individual is not able to find purpose after their active years are said and done.

If professional sports organizations have the choice of terminating your current contract, trading you mid-season, hell, mid-game [word to Jose Canseco], or not signing you at all, why is the NFL community so critical of the individual taking control of their destiny and retiring when they choose to? Even it be mid-game?

Many of us were not blessed with the physical ability, athletic prowess, or discipline to become professional athletes but we are aware that if we were to drop dead at our regular occupations, our employers would be prepared to interview our replacements before the end of our memoriam potlucks.

In the end, how can you not support Vontae Davis in his choice to preserve the one and only opportunity we have to experience this existence? His decision to retire took courage and regardless of Bills’ fandom or the pressure from the media, he only has one life to live. With that said, respect to Vontae Davis and his family, enjoy your post-retirement experience and continue to grow. Respect.

Photo By Rick Stewart/Getty Images