Following the death of Junior Seau, the NFL once again finds itself at the middle of a debate that some believe will be the downfall of the National Football League. That debate, of course, is, how liable is the NFL in regard to former players’ ongoing struggles following their years in the league?
There has been a number of major figures on both sides of the debate. Some say that the NFL knew about the consequences of repeated concussions and they simply ignored the dangers. Others argue that players understand there are inherent risks for anyone playing professional football.
In the interest of full disclosure of potential biases, I’m a member of the latter group, and apparently, Cris Carter agrees with that viewpoint. During the first part of an Outside the Lines special series, Carter acknowledged that he knew that there were risks he signed up for when he entered the league.
“I can’t blame the NFL for every issue that every former player in the NFL has.”
I realize that the NFL may be liable in some manner or another for issues that former players have due to head trauma. That makes perfect sense to me, but even if I didn’t know anything about the dangers of concussions and head injuries, I would still be able to acknowledge that repeated hits to the head would probably have detrimental effects to my health down the road.
I tend to be pessimistic about litigation of any kind. During a criminal trial, the state must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a guilty verdict. I tend to employ that method of justice when I make up my own mind about lawsuits involving any form of liability. In this case, I don’t believe the NFL was malicious in covering up information. I think the NFL was like most people before the recent developments in the field of concussion research. The owners in the league just didn’t know how dangerous concussions could be.
Cris Carter is a well-respected former player. He’s a class act, and when he speaks, people listen. His opinion speaks volumes, and I view his recent statements as a sound argument against the notion that the NFL is somehow liable for problems former players are now having due to repeated hits to the head. Concussion research is still an emerging field of study, and we can never know enough about the dangers of repeated head hits. The NFL has become a driving force in this field, and I think Cris Carter’s statement above is right on track. The NFL is working to help former players, but that doesn’t mean they owe those players millions of dollars. Money doesn’t fix depression. Research does.