The Superbowl is going to be played in New Orleans this year and it is a well known fact that the hometown team, the Saints, will not be on the field that day. After a disappointing season made worse by the NFL’s punishment of the team over the “bountygate” scandal a new scandal is emerging, I call it “brainygate”.
I believe the stated reasons for “bountygate” given by Commissioner Roger Goodell were bogus: that the “league was getting serious about player protection”. What the league was getting serious about are the lawsuits it is defending over brain trauma brought on by brutal use of football helmets. I suspect that the suspension of Saints Coach Sean Payton, several players and other wildly vindictive measures will be used to show a jury that NFL took the threat of concussions seriously and cannot possibly be held responsible for the expanding graveyard of former players who suffered those concussions.
Yesterday, the National Institutes of Health1 released the results of the tests performed on former NFL great Junior Seau’s brain. The results are tragic but not surprising to those who have followed this scandal. Seau’s brain was diseased in a manner consistent “with exposure to repetitive head injuries.”
The official term for this disease is CTE and at least 2 other former NFL stars, Dave Duerson & Ray Easterling, who have committed suicide, are confirmed to have suffered from the disease. All told at least 34 NFL players and 9 who played only college football have been diagnosed.
Currently there are 3,818 former NFL players who have joined a class-action lawsuit against the NFL for withholding information on the harmful effects of repetitive concussions.
The scandal part of the story involves the league’s continued use of the equipment that makes the concussion an inevitable part of the game: the helmet.
So the Saints and their fans took the fall for the NFL so billions in TV revenue can temporarily continue flowing but no amount of scapegoating will undo the brain damage already done to thousands by a league whose sensibilities have recently gone brain-dead.