League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis

Dear NFL Alumni:

On Tuesday, October 8, 2013 the PBS show Frontline will air the documentary “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”  You can see the trailer at the following link: PBS Documentary

As you have probably heard, ESPN decided to remove its corporate name from this documentary. The sports network, which has a lucrative deal to broadcast NFL games, will no longer permit Frontline to use its logos or other credits on the two-hour film, or two Frontline web sites related to it.

Back in 2011, ESPN signed a $15.2 billion contract with the NFL to broadcast Monday Night Football games from 2014 through 2021.

Although there is no direct evidence to show that the NFL pressured ESPN to bail out of the project, it has nonetheless provoked discussion on journalistic ethics, inappropriate corporate influence on investigative reporters, and the elevation of concern for profit over integrity.

ESPN President John Skipper said there were two things in the documentary that he thought were insufficiently respectful of the NFL.  One was the contention in the trailer that advised viewers to “get ready to change the way you see the game.”

Apparently ESPN is content with the way people see the game right now.

Judging from the comments that I have seen posted by fans regarding their feelings about the concussion lawsuits, this is a documentary that they should be required to watch. I hate to say this, but most fans, do not give a rat’s ass about former players. Once we have been used up and traded in for a new model, they don’t want to hear any whining from players that – in their mind’s – made millions of dollars doing something they could only dream of doing. The most common statement they make is “They knew what they were getting into!”

That might be true in today’s NFL – now that all the horror stories on the effects of traumatic brain injury have been told – but it certainly wasn’t true for thousands of players that rattled their brains before the scientific research started pouring in.

Yes, we knew that football was a dangerous game. Construction workers, policemen, firemen know that their occupations are dangerous too.  Does that stop them from going into those occupations? Hell no!

Should employees be compensated for injuries sustained on the job? Hell yes!

Should we ban police work, fire fighting, construction work and NFL Football. Hell no!

Should we continue to make these occupations safer? Hell yes!

Now, getting back to the documentary…….

ESPN’s second problem came with the trailer’s final sound bite, where neuropathologist Ann McKee says of brain damage, “I’m really wondering if every football player doesn’t have this.”

I think a lot of us are wondering the same thing.

The Concussion Settlement will provide free testing and assessment of brain injuries and cognitive impairment in former players.

The biggest question with respect to the Concussion Settlement is “How many former players will actually qualify for an injury award?” 

Even though I am supporting the Concussion Settlement – because it gets money “now” to the former players and families of deceased players that have Dementia, Alzheimers, ALS and Parkinson’s – I have concerns that a large majority of players will not be diagnosed with a “severe” cognitive impairment.

When we see the final details of the proposed concussion settlement, I have a sneaking suspicion that payments for former players will be lower than what we have been told. In addition to the severity of the cognitive impairment, a player’s age and years of service in the NFL will probably be factored into the amount of an injury award.

The Limbo bar has been set very low and I believe that a large majority of the 17,000 former players will not get under it.

My question to the NFL is “Just how low will you go?”

Jeff Nixon


About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on October 7, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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