Seriously … how does the NFL keep bungling so many sensitive issues? From Ray Rice and their ignorance of domestic violence, to the Washington Redskins scandal, to the Adrian Peterson fiasco, the league appears out of date with the rest of society.
In the upcoming Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, Junior Seau will be remembered as one of the greatest football players to ever play. It’s an important moment for all inductees and their families, but it is especially so for the Seau family. Just three years ago, Seau’s suicide after experiencing classic symptoms of C.T.E., or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, moved the concussion debate front and center.
His death helped turn the tide against the league, and after years of denying any connection of the repeated hits experienced in football to brain disorders, the NFL finally admitted in a federal court document that its officials “expect nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at ‘notably younger ages’ than in the general population” (nytimes.com). It’s a massive issue and one that Seau, like it or not, has become a poster child for in the fight against the NFL.
A 10-time All-Pro, 12-time Pro Bowl selection and a member of the 1990s All-Decade team, Seau was a tremendous inside linebacker and a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. However, the NFL recently made news by refusing to allow his daughter to speak at his induction. What was its reasoning … protocol.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL, which are two separate entities but work closely together, recently banned family members of posthumously elected players to give speeches, stating that it was an unneeded redundancy that elongated an already long ceremony. But this is not your typical case. Not allowing Junior Seau’s daughter to speak at his induction sends a terrible message to former players suffering from brain trauma. It’s another bad look for the league that for years denied any link between football and brain trauma.
The continued lawsuit of Seau’s wife and children against the NFL no doubt factored in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s decision to not allow Seau’s daughter to speak. The $765 million settlement between the NFL and over 5,000 former players has been widely criticized for the small number and lack of variety of diseases covered. C.T.E., the disease that may have caused Junior Seau to take his own life, is not covered in the settlement. For a league that annually generates well over $10 billion in revenue, the agreement was a major win. Seau’s family, along with 200 other families, refused the settlement and is continuing its fight against the NFL to this day.
In face of growing public condemnation, irrefutable scientific evidence linking brain trauma to concussions and pathetic defenses to these growing concerns, the NFL has remained ignorant, lost and tone deaf. Some fans and columnists claim that the league should not be responsible for players who understand the risks of playing football. They are mistaken. That argument overlooks the fact that the NFL, at worst, purposely withheld information regarding the danger of concussions and, at best, completely ignored conclusive findings as early as 1997 in a report from the American Academy of Neurology.
The complete lack of compassion shown to former players is startling. Sports are nothing more than a distraction. When it gains a greater importance than other issues, that’s when you know you’ve gone too far. The NFL has had no qualms doing just this: placing the game of football over countless hardships experienced by its former players as a direct result of the sport.
Not allowing Junior Seau’s daughter to speak at her father’s induction ceremony is shameful. The NFL should reverse its decision and give his daughter, and the rest of his family, the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful 20-year career that ultimately cost him his life.