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Volume 21 No. 1
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Hall: No plans to include issue of concussions

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has no plans to highlight in its displays the issue of concussions, one of the dominant themes in football the past five years.

Hall President David Baker, whose son, Sam, plays for the Atlanta Falcons, rules out the feature, and he strongly suggested in an interview last week that the reason so many claims have been filed against the NFL on the subject is the league’s deep pockets.

The hall’s David Baker says the NFL’s financial success attracts lawsuits.
Photo by: AP IMAGES

“Let me ask you, the Arena Football League, which I was commissioner of for 12 years: We have got, heck, boards out there that you run into that could cause some concussions,” he said. “How many lawsuits you think we had?”

Asked how many, Baker made a zero sign with his thumb and index finger. He then rhetorically asked the same question of women’s soccer, a sport with a high rate of concussions. When Baker was asked why there were no lawsuits in the AFL, he answered with his own question, asking “[why] there weren’t any in women’s soccer, if you know the statistics.”

When it was suggested the resources of the various leagues were the reason for the difference, he replied, “Yeah.”

There were no AFL lawsuits during Baker’s tenure with the league, though after he left in 2008, a handful of players did file lawsuits against the league. By comparison, more than 4,500 former NFL players have filed lawsuits against the NFL, cases that are consolidated in a single case against the league. A federal judge has preliminarily approved a settlement.

Baker does not disagree that concussions are a problem, and he says he has a unique feel for the subject because his son plays in the NFL and he was commissioner of a league when a player died after a tackle on the field.

“I talked to his parents and his wife,” Baker recalled of the 2005 death of Al Lucas.

“This is an issue I understand, but it is an issue that will be reflected [in the displays] in how the game evolves,” he said. The hall’s displays will show changes to equipment and playing rules, he said.

Baker views his role as promoting and glorifying football, calling himself and his fellow hall officials, “the Knights Templar of the holy game of football.”

“It’s not just about old jerseys and helmets under glass,” Baker said. “It’s about taking the message [of excellence] and sharing it with the world.”