'NFL Confidential': Anonymous Player On Why He Loathes The League From concussions to domestic violence, a current pro football player tells all about what's it really like on the gridiron and beyond in NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football.
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'NFL Confidential': Anonymous Player On Why He Loathes The League

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'NFL Confidential': Anonymous Player On Why He Loathes The League

'NFL Confidential': Anonymous Player On Why He Loathes The League

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

NFL player Johnny Anonymous says the league can be broken down into a few kinds of players - the true believers, the ones in it for the money and the ones who don't know how to do anything else. Johnny Anonymous says he's another kind of player. He hates professional football. He's written a book called "NFL Confidential," and he talked this week to my co-host, Audie Cornish.

AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: As you might have guessed, Johnny Anonymous is a pseudonym. Though NPR has confirmed his identity, his voice will be disguised in the interview you're about to hear.

And I started that interview by asking him why he wants to be anonymous.

JOHNNY ANONYMOUS: (Through voice-over) It's either come come clean and tell all, as it stands from my mouth and my voice with my picture and my name and football ceased to exist in my life or I maintain my anonymous stature and I can really give the world a piece of what this game really is for the guys who don't mean anything to the game and continue to make money.

CORNISH: Your book covers this time in this very kind of (laughter) peculiar workplace, right, the locker room. And there are all kinds of stereotypes, like anyone else's office. You also talk about how there are divisions on the team by race. Talk about how that happens.

ANONYMOUS: So, race is kind of a funny thing in the NFL. And obviously guys come from different places in the country, and those normal racial stereotypes that you'll find in different people that come from different places and different cultures and different parts of our society, I mean, they'll carry that. It's not like it just doesn't exist.

And you'll have a guy walking in - into the lunchroom, and there'll be a table of all white guys. And, you know, they're going to make a joke about it. Hey, is this - you got a KKK meeting going on over here? And if it was anywhere else in the world, you'd stop and go - whoa, that's too far. That's very offensive. But in the NFL, it's kind of like - hey, that was kind of eh. And it just laughs it off. It's like you take all sensitivity out and throw it in a big building with a bunch of football players, and that's who you are.

CORNISH: Now, this also leads to another issue. One of the more interesting kind of portraits you paint in the book is of, like, the sensitivity trainings that the NFL will hold or a team will hold. In one case, it was after the aftermath of the Ray Rice scandal. He's the Baltimore Ravens player who lost his spot on the team after this video went public of him punching his then fiancee. Describe what happened in that meeting.

ANONYMOUS: Well, it was a guy who was underqualified to speak about the subject he was speaking about and a handful of guys - frankly, all the guys on the team sitting in their chairs on their phone, joking around. I don't think single thing touched any man in that room except for me because I was listening the entire time for this book.

CORNISH: But - I mean, I'm thinking - I know, obviously, I'm not in as (laughter) sort of physical a workplace, but if one of my coworkers was, like, very publicly accused of domestic violence and the company said we've got to talk about this - I don't know, I'd listen.

ANONYMOUS: I don't think that it's unnecessarily that it's not interesting as a topic. I think it's just a general acceptance of - I don't know - what is seemed normal, which is kind of sad to say. Obviously, when that came out, we were all sitting in the training room and it comes up, and it's disgusting. We all know it's disgusting. A handful of guys made remarks of - this guy shouldn't be in the league; this guy's disrespect to women. Ten minutes later, you have a guy making a joke about it. So there's different levels of respect that players will have. But I think, in general, they have a pretty short attention span.

CORNISH: Do you think some of that also comes from, you know, it's a physical game, right? I mean, essentially, you talk about in the book using your anger on the field. There's a lot of guys who have to learn how to use their anger, right?

ANONYMOUS: Yeah, I think one of the greatest therapy sessions any NFL player has is actually playing the game. You have guys that - they have demons. They've had things that they've dealt with in their life that make them who they are and make them angry, physical men. You can't just make that disappear. You know, that's literally what fuels a football player to put on a helmet, look at the guy across from him and literally hit him as hard as he possibly can.

CORNISH: That's the altered voice of Johnny Anonymous, the pseudonym of an NFL player who has written a new book called "NFL Confidential." He has more to say about his experience in the league, about concussions, playing through pain and his own conflicted feelings about playing such a dangerous sport.

ANONYMOUS: I can tell you right now, honestly, that if I'm playing a game, I cannot complete that game without painkillers. I will not be an effective player.

CORNISH: That's coming up tomorrow.

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