For years, the position of the NFL on concussions has been that playing a game involving violent headfirst collisions had no connection to future brain injuries.
But in August, the NFL, and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, did a dramatic about-face, putting up in NFL locker rooms concussion advisory posters de scribed by players as “shocking.” The posters encourage players to report head trauma, and they ask for players to tell team officials if teammates are suffering the effects and not telling anyone. The posters detail that “dementia, depression, and memory problems can occur if concussions aren’t treated properly.” They make clear that these injuries “can change your life and your family’s life forever.”
How to account for this turn?
I spoke with former NFL All-Pro nose tackle Dave Pear, who has become a relentless critic of the NFL’s and the NFL Players Association’s handling of the issue.
“This is about Roger Goodell, that fraud, covering his own ass,” said Pear. “The league had opened itself up to billions in liability claims. By claiming that the sport doesn’t cause concussions, or that concussions don’t lead to dementia and the rest of it, they had opened themselves up to legal Armageddon.”
The science, unfortunately for the league, is now profoundly outpacing its ability to stage a proper public relations spin.
How long will it be until football becomes like boxing, a sport that marginalized itself by the horrors of the slurred speech and broken motor systems of a generation of champions?
It’s terribly ironic that football could be felled by the very mechanism that sent it rocketing to success: the commercialized, commodified violence that looks great on TV but spurs outrage once the cameras shut off. Now that our culture never turns the cameras off, the NFL will pay the price.
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