By Ken Reed
Anyone who watched League of Denial, the Peabody Award winning PBS documentary about the NFL’s grossly unethical approach to player brain injuries, will not be shocked to learn the details of a new lawsuit brought by former players against the league. The suit, which seeks class action status, alleges that the NFL recklessly and illegally provided painkilling drugs to players, “substituting players’ health for profit.”
The plaintiffs, including Richard Dent, Jim McMahon, and Keith Van Horne of the 1985 Chicago Bears claim NFL team doctors handed players pills in unmarked envelopes, prescribed harmful drug cocktails without any education, and gave permission for coaches to send players back on the field risking short-and-long-term harm.
The lawsuit claims that the actions of NFL doctors was consistently the antithesis of the duties of sports medicine physicians, per the American Medical Association’s guidelines:
… physicians should assist athletes to make informed decisions about their participation in amateur and professional contact sports which entail the risks of bodily injury. The professional responsibility of the physician who serves in a medical capacity at an athletic contest or sporting event is to protect the health and safety of the contestants. The desire of spectators, promoters of the event, or even the injured athlete that he or she not be removed from the contest should not be controlling. The physician’s judgment should be governed only by medical considerations …
This new lawsuit certainly didn’t come out of the blue. There have been multiple studies in recent years detailing narcotic abuse in the NFL. In one report, journalist Paul Solotaroff of Men’s Journal wrote, the NFL is “so swamped by narcotics that it closes its eyes to medical malpractice by many of its doctors and trainers. It does so not because it lacks the will to police its staff and players, but because the game itself could not survive without these powerful drugs.”
The cornerstone of the problem is a classic case of conflict-of-interest, in which doctors pay NFL teams for the right to treat players. In essence, NFL owners have team doctors right where they want them. As such, team doctors’ decisions are governed by ego and financial considerations, not medical considerations.
The NFL, an ugly league, just keeps getting uglier.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
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 member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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.
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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