How the NFL’s chemical pollution program helped protect players against heart disease

By Mark AbramsonBy Mark AbramonsSource NFL.com title NFL player deaths ‘a national tragedy’ article By James WalkerIn this Feb. 13, 2021, file photo, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz Jr. celebrates after an interception in the second half at Yankee Stadium.

Cruz’s death, first reported on Thursday, was among four that have occurred since Sept. 15, when the NFL and the NFL Players Association jointly announced an agreement to tackle the league’s chemical exposure program.

Cruz, a Hall of Fame cornerback who led the Giants to three Super Bowl titles and a Super Bowl MVP award, died Saturday in New York.

His death came two days after his mother, Tania Cruz, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the league and the players association in Manhattan federal court.

In an email to reporters, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the union’s agreement with the league “will enable the NFL to focus its resources on eliminating exposure to the toxic substances in the game, which is critical to protecting players.”

“While it is premature to say what the impact will be on the NFLPA’s efforts to end chemical use in our games, it is clear that we have a great agreement that will address this matter,” Goodell said.

“While I will continue to be transparent about the issues we are working on with the NFL, the union and its players will not be impacted,” Goodell added.

Cruz was a standout at Penn State, the home of the Nittany Lions football team, where he won two Heisman Trophy trophies in four seasons.

He was a member of the Big Ten All-Conference Team in 1987 and 1990, and won a national championship in 1990.

The Giants drafted him in the fourth round in the 1992 draft and he signed with the Eagles in 1993 as a free agent.

He played in four games in 1993 and again in 1996, before a shoulder injury derailed his career.

He played only three games for the Giants the next two seasons before he retired from football.

In 2009, the NFL introduced the Clean Energy Initiative, which includes a pledge to clean up footballs and other synthetic materials.

The initiative includes the following commitments: eliminate the use of nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants that can damage players; ensure that all players have helmets made of materials made from non-flammable materials; eliminate the production and sale of artificial turf; reduce the use and use of chemicals that can affect the brain; and reduce the rate of death from heart disease among players.

The program also requires teams to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and lead in their practice fields and stadiums.