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 #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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