The past few weeks have been hard on the NFL. People are finally talking about the culture of the league and its implicit support of domestic violence. Frankly, the timing couldn't be better. The exposure of this atrocious stance on the abuse of women and children is pulling attention from a new study indicating that 28% of NFL players will develop dementia in their lifetimes.
The report, released as part of a $765 million settlement of thousands of concussion lawsuits, states that "nearly three in 10 former players will develop debilitating brain conditions, and that they will be stricken earlier and at least twice as often as the general population." Of the roughly 19,000 former NFL team players, 6,000 are expected to develop dementia. Others will suffer from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) or Parkinson's.
If all this stuff about concussions and lawsuits sounds familiar to you, it's because the settlement has been in the works for over a year. Why are we talking about it again? This disclosure, based on data compiled by the National Football League itself, is new and confirms the concerns of players, their loved ones, and their fans.
Some will say that the men who play in the NFL are well compensated and know the risks of the sport going in. Those people are ridiculous. When they continue to argue with you, point out that this class-action lawsuit in part accuses the NFL of hiding the data linking concussions to brain injuries. The men who started playing football decades ago and are now suffering from debilitating neurological disorders? They didn't know. Hell, the men who started playing professionally last year are still finding out. You think this is a topic of discussion for high school players?
The bulk of the settlement - $675 million - will go to player awards with smaller amounts set aside for baseline assessments, research, and public notice. It applies only to retired players, not the men we watch each week. That may seem like a lot of money (and the league has agreed to pay more over time as needed), but the NFL has an estimated $10 billion in annual revenues. That's billion. With a B.
I was raised a Giants fan. I cringe at every interception, throw up my arms at every sack, groan at every fumble and jump up in jubilation at every touch down (the latter happening less often than I'd like). I react this way because football is fun as hell to watch and I want my team to win. I should be reacting because every tackle inches these men closer towards that 30%.
I've reached the stage where I officially feel guilty when I watch football. I'm not calling for a boycott, it would be hypocritical of me to do so while I plan for my tailgate. I am saying that while we rightfully call for Goodell's resignation and demand an overhaul of NFL policies, the league's responsibility to the health of their current and retired players needs to be part of the discussion.