By Ken Reed
After the Super Bowl, I wrote a short blog entry about the NFL’s “Forever Football” PR campaign. I opined that the Forever Football spots that ran during the Super Bowl game between the San Francisco 49’ers and Baltimore Ravens were nothing more than “a carefully crafted public relations campaign designed to provide a buffer against the onslaught of lawsuits and negative publicity that’s increasingly coming the NFL’s way due to a growing mound of research that connects repetitive blows to the head with short and long-term brain damage.”
Recently, Patrick Hruby, a sports and culture writer based in Washington D.C., looked at the NFL’s “Forever Football” campaign and came away with a similar perspective in a SportsonEarth.com column. According to Hruby, the NFL’s approach to brain trauma is “dishonest. Conflicted. At odds with reality. More concerned with the health and well-being of the sport than the health and well-being of the people who play it. An exercise in damage control, liability reduction and manipulating public perception, rife with revisionist history and intelligence-insulting spin.”
Right on, Mr. Hruby.
As strong as Hruby’s analytical piece for SportsonEarth was, he followed it up a few days later with a more impactful and emotional feature article on ESPN.com. Hruby’s ESPN piece looked at the life of former NFL player George Visger. It detailed Visger’s trials and tribulations the last few decades in dealing with football-induced brain injuries.
Visger won a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49’ers in the early 1980’s. He was a mountain of a man at 6’5″ and 275 pounds and on top of the world. However, his reality is much different today after nine brain surgeries.
“Visger lives in Sacramento, in a trailer behind his brother’s house,” writes Hruby. “He says he’s struggling financially. He has trouble remembering things, such as what he was talking about five minutes ago. Reading a newspaper can take him all day. Reading the comics can be a chore. In a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation, he scored above average on tests of verbal reasoning and the ability to recall information learned in school, but far below average on tests involving short-term memory, information processing speed and abstract thinking; a doctor described his overall intellectual functioning as “difficult to summarize by a single score.” Visger has been diagnosed with chronic traumatic brain injury, frontal and temporal lobe disorders, generalized seizure disorder and cognitive impairment. He believes he also suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease similar to Alzheimer’s that has been linked to absorbing repeated blows to the head. Visger has a bum knee, too, and a right arm he can barely lift over his head. His kidney stones burn like hot coals. He sometimes goes four days without sleeping.”
Scary, powerful stuff.
If I was Roger Goodell, I wouldn’t want Patrick Hruby working on the “football and the brain” beat.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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