The death of Junior Seau has led to a wide array of past and present NFL players speaking out in regards to the concussion problem faced by the most popular sport in America.
Kurt Warner’s fear of letting his children play football sparked heated debate, while former Washington Redskin LaVar Arrington lamented the ongoing ‘sissification‘ of football. Cris Carter acknowledged the presence of bounties during his playing days, and cited an example involving the consistently insane Bill Romanowski.
Truth be told, the past year has been a public relations nightmare for the NFL, and Roger Goodell’s attempts to address the issues that have plagued the league – negotiating the new CBA, the bounty scandal, salary cap circumventions – could be deemed relatively successful.
DeMaurice Smith, Goodell’s adversary during the CBA negotiations, hasn’t fared as well.
It’s unlikely the union will be able to get the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith reduced. But in the bigger picture Smith and his fellow executives will have to tread a fine line with CTE and the concussion issue. On one hand, the players the union currently represents have a clear financial interest in maintaining the status quo – they earn their paychecks for playing a certain style, one that’s inherently violent. Retirement for players who’ve just entered the league is out of sight, and out of mind.
The PA did yeoman’s work while ensuring an increase in benefits for retired players in the last CBA negotiations. This included the Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit:
The Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit was created for any vested former player suffering from any neuro-cognitive impairment. For the first time, former players do not have to demonstrate football causation to qualify, which removes a tremendous burden from a disabled player. Additionally, any vested former player with one credited season after 1994 is eligible.
The benefits won by the PA were a step in the right direction for a sport that’s treated it’s former players pretty damn poorly at times. In light of the recent comments made by Warner, Carter, and Arrington, it’s worth seeing how the new generation is responding:
The lesson: respect your elders doesn’t apply when livelihoods are at stake.