CBS: NFL 'Putting Profits Ahead of Players'

     Many former NFL players are broke and broken. They claim hardships caused by injuries sustained playing football are the reason. Should the NFL pay restitution? The media seem to think so.


     Several NFL retirees testified before a House judiciary subcommittee on June 26 about their ailments and what they thought the NFL and Congress should do about it. Two separate stories about the issue were quite favorable and left out information that might undermine the players’ claims.


     On the June 26 CBS “Evening News,” CBS New correspondent Cynthia Bowers reported on the plight of one of those players, former Minnesota Viking Brent Boyd. Bowers said Boyd only came forward after recent autopsies showed former NFL players Mike Webster and Andre Waters showed severe brain damage.


     “Now we’re seeing all these guys with early dementia and doctors say I’m an excellent candidate for that to happen,” said Boyd. “So I want to get my story out there while I can tell it.”


     But that’s not entirely true. Boyd had already told his story. According to court documents, Boyd had actually sued to claim disability benefits from a fund maintained by the NFL. A federal district court granted a motion for summary judgment and ruled against Boyd because the court had determined Boyd’s disability was not the result of a football-related injury. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal upheld that decision in 2005. This was ignored in the CBS report.


     Bowers quoted former San Francisco 49ers team physician, Dr. Michael Dillingham. Dillingham told CBS he was not surprised so many have started to come forward with brain damage. “A lot of questions are being asked, thank God. And answers are being sought, but we don’t have the answers yet,” Dillingham said.


     Dillingham is currently the team physician for Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants. However, Dillingham’s specialty is orthopedics. That’s a branch of medicine dealing not with brain trauma, but disorders or injuries of the bones, joints, and associated muscles.


     Bowers cited statistics from the NFL that “on any given Sunday, there are an average of eight concussions.” However, Bowers neglected to point out that the retired players could have received concussions long before playing in the NFL – playing in college and high school. 


     Bowers placed the blamed squarely on the successful NFL. “And critics say that by downplaying the long-term impact, this multi-billionaire dollar business seems to be putting profits ahead of players,” added Bowers.


     But the NFL and NFL Players Association, the league’s player union, have already eased the guidelines for collecting disability money by agreeing to automatically allow a retiree who has qualified for Social Security disability benefits to receive benefits from the NFL.


     The CBS report ignored issues of personal responsibility. This was pointed out by NFL retirement plan lawyer Douglas Ell. "Many of the players who now complain about their pension did not view pension benefits as a priority when they were playing, and did not agree to make sacrifices in bargaining to improve either their pensions or the pensions of those who came before them," Ell said to the Associated Press.