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Volume 26 No. 50
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NFL Stands By Acknowledgment Of CTE Link; Could Affect Concussion Lawsuit Settlement

The NFL is "standing by the acknowledgement" made Monday by NFL Senior VP/Health & Safety Policy Jeff Miller that there is "a link between football" and CTE, according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy in a written statement yesterday said, "The comments made by Jeff Miller ... accurately reflect the view of the NFL." Dr. Robert Cantu, co-Dir of Boston Univ.'s CTE Center and an adviser to the NFL's Head, Neck & Spine Committee, said, "It's very positive that the NFL has stepped forward. I look forward to other sports stepping forward as well. ... Football has taken the lead and that's great." Cantu said the NFL by promising it "would go where the science leads," has "become the first major sport to do so." U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who got the statement from Miller during a roundtable discussion with members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, was one of four members of Congress to write NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday "asking what further steps the league plans to take." The letter, co-authored by U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Gene Green (D-Texas) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), states, "We are encouraged by the NFL's willingness to accept the science linking the repetitive hits inherent to football with CTE. We seek to better understand whether this new attitude will translate into additional actionable measures to prevent repetitive brain trauma in current players, encourage programs and protocols to protect children in the youth leagues, and provide support for current and retired players at risk of this disease" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/16). In N.Y., Belson & Schwarz in a front-page piece write Miller's acknowledgement on Monday "could profoundly affect the country's most popular sport." Miller's response "signaled a stunning about face" for the league. Legal experts said that Miller's response "might serve the NFL well." It could "make it harder in the future for a player to accuse the league of concealing the dangers of the sport" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/16).

CAUSE & EFFECT: In L.A., Fenno & Farmer report Miller's acknowledgment "reverberated far beyond the congressional hearing" on Capitol Hill. Attorney Steven Molo, who is repping four former NFLers "appealing the settlement to the long-running concussion litigation between the league and retired players, assailed the league's shifting position on CTE." Molo in a letter to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, "The NFL's testimony also directly contradicts its position in the case." But NFL attorney Paul Clement yesterday in a letter filed with the court "disputed the contentions." He wrote Molo "fundamentally mischaracterizes" the settlement. Fenno & Farmer note under the settlement, families of players who "received a postmortem diagnosis of CTE before U.S. District Judge Anita Brody approved the deal last April 22 can receive" up to $4M. CTE diagnoses after that date "aren't compensated, and players and their families who participate in the deal are barred from suing the league over the disease in the future." Attorney George Cochran yesterday in a letter to the court "asked the appellate court" to "allow players diagnosed with CTE in the future to not be bound by terms of the settlement" (L.A. TIMES, 3/16). Molo said that there is "no taking back Miller's statement." Molo: "He said that in Congress, and he happens to be right. It's about time the NFL owned up to the issue; the science has spoken. There's no confusion. He said what he said" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/16).

GRAVITATIONAL SHIFT: The AP's Campbell & Walker note critics of the NFL's proposed $1B settlement called Miller's "sudden acknowledgement of a football-CTE connection a game changer." The settlement is "being appealed by players concerned that it excludes future cases of CTE, what they consider 'the signature disease of football.'" However, Miller's admission "might not have any tangible effect on the case," given the timing. The appellate reviews are "typically only focused on the court records" (AP, 3/16). SI.com's Doug Farrar wrote even if Miller's admission does not "scuttle the settlement -- and it may -- it will undoubtedly be 'Exhibit A' in future lawsuits brought by those ex-players who have 'opted out' of the class action settlement" (SI.com, 3/15). Sports attorney David Wallach said, "This could change everything. It undermines what the league has argued for years as it's denied football had any link to CTE. ... It should impact the case and could throw the whole settlement wide open" (USA TODAY, 3/16). N.Y. attorney Michael Kaplen, who specializes in brain injury issues, said, "The settlement should be thrown out and the NFL should fairly compensate all players with brain injuries, not just CTE" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/16). VICE SPORTS' Patrick Hruby wrote under the header, "If The NFL Thinks Football Is Linked To CTE, Then Its Concussion Settlement Should Pay For The Disease" (SPORTS.VICE.com, 3/15).

ON THE RECORD: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes the NFL has "finally pulled its head out of the sand," or maybe it "was yanked out." Armour: "Either way, the result is the same. And it's likely to cost the league a lot of money" (USA TODAY, 3/16). SNY’s Chris Carlin said, “For the NFL, now it’s on record and that has the possibility of coming back to haunt them in court cases” (“Loud Mouths,” SNY, 3/15). The N.Y. Daily News’ Andy Martino said Miller’s comments “highlight how delusional and dishonest" the NFL was for so many years (“Daily News Live,” SNY, 3/15). ESPN’s Darren Woodson said denying a connection "has been a flat-out lie” by the NFL. ESPN’s Mark Schlereth: “I believe there's a certain amount of distrust between players and between the league. I understand that distrust because you live through it. ... They lied to the guys. Here’s what I want to see: Put your money where your mouth is. If player safety is truly your No. 1 concern, then make sure we're taking care of the guys that lay down a foundation so that you can be the most popular sport in America" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 3/15).

THE TIME IS NOW: In N.Y., Gary Myers notes Miller's acknowledgment "should get the conversation to the next level." Myers: "Next up, Roger Goodell must publicly recognize there is a link between concussions and CTE" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/16). In Toronto, John Kryk writes now is the "perfect time for the NFL to finally get ahead of the concussion story." The NFL needs to take the lead among the world's top pro sports leagues in "embracing and owning -- not dismissing or avoiding -- medical advancements and discoveries in the detection of degenerative brain diseases." Kryk: "Then, face the consequences. Financial or otherwise. Bottom line, stop behaving like the bad guys and become the good guys" (TORONTO SUN, 3/16). Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Dr. Christopher Whitlow said, “Acknowledging and embracing the potential health consequences of football and concussions and head impact is the thing that’s going to save the game” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 3/15).

FROM THE EDITORIAL BOARD
: A Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE editorial states under the header, "NFL Makes It Official: Minds Are At Risk, Too." The NFL's admission "should prompt the league to go beyond the proposed" $1B plan to "settle concussion claims by former players." The editorial: "It now should look at providing financial support for current and future players who develop health issues related to head trauma." (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 3/16). A SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE editorial states it is "outrageous that it literally took an act of Congress" for the NFL official to acknowledge a link between football-related brain trauma and CTE. Moving the sticks on the CTE discussion from "whether there's a football connection to what to do about it is healthy." The editorial: "Leagues from Pop Warner to the NFL can't tackle this issue quickly enough" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/16).