Dave D’Alessandro, a sports writer for The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, wrote a powerful column Tuesday about New York Giants CEO John Mara, concussions and the lawsuits that hundreds of ex-NFL players have filed against the league over long-term brain injury.
John Mara, the heir of the Wellington Mara Giants dynasty, actually seems to have a heart, and sympathy, for the retired players who are suffering from memory loss, dementia and other cognitive problems after years of sustaining concussions on the gridiron.
The younger Mara said he “grew up with these guys,” with these players who are now retired and ailing. D’Alessandro got a great quote from him.
“It’s shocking to me to see guys who, when they were players, you’d say, ‘This guy is going to have a good post-football career — very smart, has his degree,” Mara told D’Alessandro. “And then it’s 10 years later, and he’s broke and out of work. It kills you to see that. It absolutely kills you.”
As for the piles of lawsuits, Mara said that he resents at least one of the charge that they make: That the NFL knew the long-term effects of repeated head injuries and hid that information from players. He calls that allegation “ridiculous.”‘
Mara is part of the NFL’s Competition Committee, where there has been a lot of talk about safety.
The Giants CEO conceded that the league hasn’t taken care of retired players, but asserted that it is making an effort to do so now. As D’Alessandro pointed out, there has been a $620 million legacy fund created that will be divvied up among 4,700 pensioners.
And according to Mara, the competition committee has even discussed putting an end to kickoffs to cut down on head injuries.
But D’Alessandro summed up the NFL-brain injury issue perfectly:
“Think of it: How much longer can we be bombarded with these heart-wrenching distortions of once-powerful images of American manhood — Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Andre Waters, et al — and accept the sanctioned mayhem of a league which seems to accept self-inflicted gunshots as the only liberation from decades of pain?”
How much longer indeed?