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 #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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