The nightmare continues.
When ESPN’s article on the money grab which is the brain injury lawsuit against the NFL came out recently, it showed just how little is being done for former NFL players struggling with head injuries. So far they have not seen one dime of the settlement money. With lawyers charging outrageous fees, and medical corporations and doctors practically targeting them, you wonder how much money the players will really see. The extreme greed is hard to watch. The sad part is, more players are being diagnosed with ALS and CTE and many feel this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Studies now show NFL players are 4-5 times more likely to get ALS than the regular public. The famous Italian soccer study showed Italian soccer players were 6 times more likely to get it. Severe forms of CTE are now feared to be a cause of ALS. Former woman’s US soccer star Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain to CTE studies. The first MMA fighter has now been thought to have CTE. Even BMX legend Dave Mirra was shown to have CTE after his suicide at the age of 41.
Now present and former NHL players are coming out to talk about it. If you thought the NFL was obtuse about head injuries, the NHL makes them look like Mother Theresa. They sued to block their emails dating back to as much as 10 years ago trying to block studies on the effects of concussions partly because they didn’t want to limit fighting.
Last month the NFL world was shocked and dismayed to hear that former 49er great Dwight Clark was diagnosed with ALS. Alabama great Kevin Turner; an 8 year veteran of the NFL; died last year at 46 from ALS. He was one of the key witnesses in the CTE trials v.s. the NFL. His brain was later studied and he was found to have severe CTE damage. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2010.
Raiders stud FB Steve Smith has been battling ALS for 15 years. And sadly the Raiders and Seattle families lost a valuable person last week in Derrick Jensen.
I still remember Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last March saying he personally still didn’t think there was a link to head injuries, concussions and CTE. That’s what players are up against.
Derrick Jensen Loses His Battle With ALS:
Raiders super sub and special teams captain Derrick Jensen lost his battle with ALS last week after being diagnosed in 2012. Jensen was 60. He was a key member of the Raiders and won 2 Super Bowls. In the first 5 minutes of Super Bowl XVIII, Derrick blocked a Washington punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown that set the tone for a huge win against a team that most in the media at that time was calling the best ever. I remember pretty much going insane as a kid when it happened.
Derrick was a solid and valuable player, but he also was a long time respected scout for the Seattle Seahawks with over 2 decades of amazing evaluations. He was beloved for his kindness and respect towards people. He was eclectic and fun and went out of his way to just say hi to Seattle staffers. You would be hard pressed to find a more loved guy. His death was a great loss to the NFL. The Seahawks have renamed their draft room in his honor. Sadly Derrick lost his wife Amanda in 2009 in a car accident and now his 19 y/o son Davis (in honor of Al? I don’t know) must go on without his parents.
A 5-Star Must Read Book on Players & Their Families Fighting CTE:
Many are reading this book in one sitting. If you want to get a raw, in depth look at what players & families go through with CTE, read Cyndy Feasel’s book “After the Cheering Stops”. Her late husband Grant Feasel; a former Seattle Seahawk OL; was struck by CTE and this story is an amazing one. I can’t recommend this book enough. Grant sadly, was far from being the only one. RIP Grant.
NFL Royalty Now Struggling:
When Ken Stabler’s partner Kim Ross-Bush came out talking about the CTE symptoms that Ken was suffering from, it seemed that more people started to listen. Sadly, the list of players struggling continues to grow.
Cowboys great Tony Dorsett has done several national interviews talking about his battle with depression, mood swings and extreme memory loss. Ex-Raider/Eagle/49er RB Charlie Garner says he can’t go anywhere without someone coming with him because he forgets where his car is & has trouble in conversations.
NFL Royalty and super man Gale Sayers barely talks anymore. One of the most articulate and smart people in NFL history, can no longer remember some people or even carry on simple conversations.
Detroit Lion legend Mel Farr died in 2015 and it was shown he had severe CTE which he suspected. At one time Mel had the largest African American owned company in the U.S.
Frank Wycheck, Mike Adamle, and so many others are now saying they are afraid of what lies ahead with their symptoms. Raider great George Atkinson says it’s hitting him as well and Phil Villapiano says it’s the scary thing everyone is talking about. Their memories fading, while their thoughts get lost in a fog.
These aren’t dumb football players folks. These are smart, articulate, and successful men who contributed great things to the NFL and they are now losing their faculties. AND STILL, no support from the NFL.
The NFL Needs a Wake Up Call:
People have changed in our country and some leave their brains at the door. If some belong to a political party, love a football team or belong to an organization, they will blindly defend it no matter what. Right and wrong no longer matters to them. It’s like they take it personally if someone questions what they are a part of. It’s pathetic and insecure to be honest. You can’t fix problems unless you admit them.
The NFL see’s that same phenomena. “Don’t be a hater, don’t be negative; you are a troll”. It’s like a bunch of cult members are walking around saying question nothing. To admit a terrible mistake by something they belong to or like is out of the question.
“I’m loyal from the crib to the grave. Win lose or tie, loyal til I die”. These are sayings that are seen often in fan groups of all NFL teams. Unfortunately the league, the teams, and the owners don’t feel the same. They will move to another city without a worry, buy off politicians and not support the players that made them rich while not thinking twice about it. Their goal is one thing; make more money. Some NFL fans are the abused spouses of the sporting world and they don’t even know it; enabling the NFL to the end blindly defending anything they do, or fail to do.
Cheerleaders had to sue to get minimum wage and the overwhelming support in social media was for the NFL. The names these women were called by some male fans on social media shouldn’t be repeated. The Ref’s were destroyed by fans for wanting to be full time employees with full time training and salaries. This would greatly improve the calls in games and improve the integrity of the game. Sadly the “cash strapped” NFL said they couldn’t afford to pay them full time. Most fans backed the NFL and told refs to get other jobs if you don’t like it.
The treatment of the retired players is worse. Our society has lost it’s ability to be compassionate, especially to elderly people. If I wrote a story about Derek Carr giving someone a ride, I’d get thousands of readers an hour. Talk about the sad demise of a great player from the past and the numbers drop significantly with a yawn. It’s too sad and no one wants to bother.
What Can We Do:
It will take maturity and confidence from fans to create change. First, we can listen. We can listen to the players and their families. We can support them by complaining to the league and owners in social media or in actually writing letters that we need to respect them and their needs. A little bit of effort goes a long way. The NFL was going to do nothing in the Ray Rice case until fans were outraged when TMZ proved them to be liars.
The NBA had a known racist, Donald Sterling as an owner. They knew and supported him for years through his racist actions and rants. They defended him until a video came out that was seen by fans. The outrage was epic and public opinion forced the NBA to get rid of him. Professional leagues morals are based on money & public opinion.
We can also support pages, stories and the players themselves. Instead of putting up that 1000th team meme or 5000th cat photo on Facebook, teach yourself and/or your kids about the history of the teams and the great players from the past. These players sacrificed a great deal to play football and many were extremely loyal to the cities and fans. Some became integral parts of the community with many living and dying in the area they played in. We need to stop acting like 18 y/o gang members and respect all players from all teams. You can hate a team or player in fun but remember we are all in this game called life, and that is much more important than any football rivalry or team loyalty.
What is happening to retired players is unacceptable and we need to be the answer. You can still love football and the players in it while not condoning some of the actions of the NFL and the owners. The NFL’s actions show it is loyal to one thing; money. It is their god. Well it’s not mine. They are not loyal to players, fans, cheerleaders, cities and even the refs. I’m not letting ANY corporation or person use me or disrespect me, and you shouldn’t either. Look at their actions, and not the words. Love the game, and the teams and players but be respectful of what’s going on. And if we are as loyal and respectful to the game as we say, let’s make a difference and show the NFL that the sport is about the people in it, and not the profit from it.