The NFL is in trouble. Not on the field, or in the stands, or in TV executives’ offices, but in courtrooms.

The NFL is facing an avalanche of concussion-related lawsuits from former players. These players believe that the NFL didn’t take concussions seriously during their playing days and didn’t do enough to protect them or inform them of the dangers of head trauma. In effect, these players are attacking what they see as a permissive culture in the NFL, one in which players are intentionally treated as disposable pieces of meat.

The recently released audio of former New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams giving his players a pep talk on the eve of a playoff game will only add fuel to the growing fire nipping at the feet of NFL owners and executives.

“Kill the head and the body will die,” said Williams repeatedly on the audio released by documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon.

Williams had additional despicable quotes during his presentation to his team before the game with the San Francisco 49’ers, including “Make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head.” Gore is the 49’ers star running back. “We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head.”

Williams also told his players that 49’ers receiver Michael Crabtree “becomes human when we … take out that outside ACL (anterior cruciate ligament in the knee).

He also encouraged targeting 49’ers quarterback Alex Smith’s head.

“And we’re going to kill the [expletive] head. Every single of of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head … continue to touch and effect the head.”

For now, completely disregard the total lack of sportsmanship, the total disdain for the spirit of the game, inherent in these comments. Focus on what he’s asking his players to do in this era of increasing awareness of the serious ramifications resulting from concussions and repetitive brain trauma. He’s calling on his players to intentionally traumatize fellow competitors’ brains, action that has been shown to lead to early dementia, depression, and a variety of other neurological problems that severely limit the quality of life of former NFL players.

The release of the Williams tape comes on the heels of the Saints’ Bountygate case in which Williams and Saints head coach Sean Payton condoned a “pay-for-injury” scheme that paid Saints players for inflicting injuries resulting in “cart-offs.”

NFL lawyers have to be sweating and losing sleep these days. When they do get to sleep, they’re probably hearing the words “Kill the head and the body will die” over and over in their nightmares.

The NFL culture is now on trial and things could get ugly — and expensive — for Commissioner Roger Goodell and his ownership club.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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