Brett Favre, prescription painkillers, and the National Football League

Abstract:  This paper uses a genealogical approach to explore the conjuncture at which the longstanding but partial and uneasy silence surrounding painkiller use in the National Football League seems increasingly under threat. We historicize and problematize apparently self-evident narratives about painkiller use in contemporary football by interrogating the gendered, racialized and labor-related discourses surrounding Brett Favre’s 1996 admission of a dependency on Vicodin, as well as the latest rash of confessions of misuse by now retired athletes. We argue that these coconstructed and coconstructing moments of noise and silence are part of the same discursive system. This system serves to structure the emerging preoccupation with painkillers in the NFL, with Favre’s admission still working to placate anxieties surrounding the broader drug problems endemic to the league, and failing to disrupt our implicit knowingness about painkiller use, thus reinforcing ongoing cultures of silence and toughness in professional football.

 

King, S., Carey, R.S., Jinnah, N., Millington, R., Phillipson, A., Prouse, C., and Ventresca, M. (2014). When is a drug not a drug? Brett Favre, prescription painkillers, and the National Football League. Sociology of Sport Journal, 31, 249-266.