While the NFL draft makes headlines every year, there was plenty of side talking points in 2018. With quarterbacks galore, all of the talk heading into the draft was about the first round picks and who could become the kings of the franchise.
In the advancement to the later rounds, the coverage starts to drop and so does the interest. For many of the late picks, the NFL didn’t really show all the bells and whistles – with the news instead being shared via a sidebar at the bottom, Sky Sports breaking news style.
This time though, things were a bit different. In the fifth round, the Seattle Seahawks selected linebacker Shaquem Griffin, twin brother of Hawks cornerback Shaqill and his conference’s defensive player of the year in 2016. A hell of a coup, particularly in the fifth round.
The news went global because of Griffin’s disability, as he was born with a condition that prevented his fingers developing and had his hand amputated at the age of just four – a day after his parents walked on in on him trying to self amputate, showing how much pain he must have been in.
However, using the word ‘disability’ in this sense kind of feels counter productive as the 22-year-old has worked his socks off to show he has the talent to compete with the ‘able bodied’ athletes, which is a shining light to the NFL’s inclusion.
Disabled sport doesn’t get as much coverage as it should, hence why it isn’t surprising to see Griffin pursue a professional career in the NFL, and his draft raises a serious question – should these disabled athletes be automatically separated, or should it be the choice of the individual?
If a player is good enough, then surely they should be able to compete. It’s not down to anyone to decide someone’s fate purely because of a disability, particularly if it doesn’t stop them from competing at the same level. In an ideal world, that’s how it should be and the NFL deserves credit for not standing in the way of Griffin’s dreams.
It should provide encouragement to millions of children across the globe to continue to fight for what they want and not to become disheartened by the stigma that they’re labelled with on a daily basis. Griffin shows that if you’re good enough, there’s nothing that can stop you – and I’m sure there’s plenty who are rooting for him to shine this season.