Last month, a neurosurgeon affiliated with the NFL’s head, neck and spine injury committee said there was no proven link between football and degenerative brain disease.
A day later, commissioner Roger Goodell said of safety issues in the sport, “there’s risks in life, there’s risks to sitting on the couch.’’
On Monday, the league finally acknowledged that there is a connection between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease that affects the brains of those who have had repeated concussions.
If you smell a rat, your olfactory abilities are not betraying you.
Monday’s acknowledgement by NFL vice president Jeff Miller that football and CTE are linked is the league’s way of saying that current and future players will now assume the risk of the disease. Mostly the league is saying it won’t spend a dime going forward on players who will get CTE.
The NFL will spend $1 billion on former players with brain-related issues, as part of a settlement to a lawsuit brought by a group of players. But after that? Profit margins are for the owners, not the foot soldiers.
The league has put a notice on its packaging that cigarettes can cause cancer.
It will continue to put money into trying to make the game safer at the youth level. Whether that’s because it’s worried about kids getting hurt or because it’s worried its product is dying a slow death depends on how deep your cynicism runs.
The letters “CTE’’ have become so engrained in our brains that, although most people probably couldn’t say what the letters stand for, they know what the letters mean: trouble. The NFL saw it as trouble in a different way. They saw money going down the drain without end. That’s what Miller’s admission before a U.S. House Committee was about.
To say that trust in the NFL is lacking on this issue would be like saying trust in politicians is lacking. And maybe that’s being unfair to politicians.