Ok, I’ll be honest. I never heard of Kelechi Osemele until the other day. It was when I saw this article about how he plays for the New York Jets and needs shoulder surgery, but the team doesn’t want him to have it.
Apparently he had a shoulder injury before the season started. He was able to play with the torn labrum when the season started, but being a human battering ram for 70 plays a game has caused the injury to get worse. Osemele wants to have surgery based on his orthopedic doctor’s recommendation. Per the article, his position is that he aggravated the pre-existing condition in August and then again in their third game.
The Jets say he can play through the pain. Unfortunately for them, the second and third opinion doctor say different.
Now the NFL does have a collective bargaining agreement with their players, but it doesn’t trump state law. So if Osemele played for the Bears, you’d likely only hear that he had shoulder surgery and was placed on injured reserve.
That’s because under Illinois workers’ compensation law, the employer can’t dictate your medical care. If you can prove your job aggravated a pre-existing condition (pretty easy in this case) and that your doctor thinks you need surgery from that, if you want it, you get to have it.
A lot of this reeks of the NFL shadiness when they tried to get players to shake off concussions. They don’t care about the health of their workers and will abuse them when they can.
For Bears players though, they have the same protections as any other Illinois worker. You could be a very important plumber on a construction job. If you tear your labrum and need surgery, your employer can’t tell you to wait until the job is finished. Illinois work comp laws look out for your health.
Because they are entertainers, it’s weird to think of athletes as employees. This is no different than if an actor on Hamilton tore his ACL and needed off the production to have surgery. Even if the show wouldn’t go on without them, they can choose to take care of their bodies above all else.
Hopefully the nonsense with this player goes away, he gets better and is able to return to a productive career. Bottom line though is that Illinois has great laws that protect you if you are hurt on the job. You are allowed to think about your long term health and get the treatment your doctor thinks you need.