Tuesday, March 15, 2016

NFL: Endorsing A Concussion Demagogue And Declawing Goodell

The NFL is in DC this week and two stories have broken that are pretty big. The more immediate one is that the league and the NFLPA are negotiating a new player discipline policy that in essence declaws Roger Goodell. DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA says a new deal has to settle present controversies, notably the league's absurd punishment of Tom Brady.

That the league has come to this extends beyond punishment of players.   It basically serves as a fundamental rebuke of Roger Goodell's raison d'etre.  Goodell was elected NFL commissioner to reign in players whose off-field behavior had supposedly spiraled out of control - "the inmates were running the asylum" is the term I've heard used.   The problem quickly became that the players were not the problem; Goodell immediately made himself the problem by handing down punishments based on his own personal spite, and punishing players based on mere accusations.   Sports law professor Jeffrey Standen back during the Spygate fiasco showed how the owners themselves had serious doubts about Goodell's judgement to be commissioner, and now we've had nothing but proof he never should have been elected.

So it would seem declawing him on player punishments is but step one toward removing him from office entirely. 

The second story is that NFL official Jeff Miller, during a roundtable discussion in DC with Rep. Jan Shakowsky, answered a question about football concussions  - "Do you think there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders?"  Miller replied yes by citing recent research by Ann McKee of Boston University.   That the league cited Ann McKee is surprising given what real science says, such as this piece on the study of six deceased CFL players, a piece that overall refuses demagoguery about football - "It is difficult to establish a definitive link between multiple concussions and the development of CTE" is the piece's conclusion).

McKee has been one of the more demagogic pushers of the myth of football killing its players - McKee's research (and that of the BU group in general) too often dumbs down the definition of brain degeneration by including as evidence of CTE the results of normal aging, and the research has been disputed by the British Journal Of Sports Medicine"McKee zealously looks for CTE and the methods she employs help her to find it." So why is the NFL endorsing a concussion demagogue instead of real science that puts icewater on McKee's premise? For that matter it seems the larger media has ignored any source of CTE information other than the BU group.

The game has been safer for so long that to let a group of academic demagogues set a sham debate about its safety is stupidity at its worst. 

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