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The Next Target

2013 September 30

I recently watched Sean Pamphilon’s documentary, The United States of Football. It was hard-hitting, emotional and, quite frankly, disturbing.

The part that stood out most to me was the story of Sean Morey. Morey played ­­9 years in the NFL. His primary role was to serve as a wedge buster – a concussion kamikaze.

Like so many of his brothers, Morey is fighting the demons and living with the emotional toll of post-concussion syndrome.

What distinguishes Morey from most players is that he experienced the apparent corruption of the NFL and the NFLPA first hand.

You see, Morey was like Dave Duerson. A former player handpicked by the higher ups, charged with the role of “player advocacy.”

In 2006, Duerson was appointed to serve as a Trustee of the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan – jointly administered by the NFL and NFLPA.

He was fed lies, repeatedly, over a four-year period that rejected the link between repetitive head trauma and neurological disorders.

Some players argue that Duerson was a “robot member” for the Plan – if he went against the grain he’d be fired.

Duerson put his trust in the NFL and NFLPA – they allegedly deceived him.

He did as he was told and denied multiple meritorious claims for disability. Duerson told Congress, presumably at the coaching of the NFL and NFLPA, that the link is too remote; anyone can have, you know, neurological disorders.

And also, in regards to the issue of Alzheimer’s, my father’s 84, and, as I had mentioned earlier, Senator, spent 30 years with General Motors. He also has—he has Alzheimer’s and brain damage, but never played a professional sport. So, the challenge, you know, in terms of where the damage comes from, is a fair question, and one that—you know, that has been addressed, and that—and is one that we, in fact, ask. – Dave Duerson, 2007 Congressional Testimony

Duerson killed himself before he could deliver the truth. Instead, it was revealed post-mortem that the damage sustained from football led to his early demise.

Similar to Duerson, the Ivy-League educated Morey was chosen to be a voice for the former players. He was picked to Co-Chair the NFLPA’s Mackey-White Traumatic Brain Injury Committee.

Morey tried to place the players’ health and safety first, and he succeeded to a certain extent. But, he was also shut down at nearly every corner and mocked by De Smith for giving him more “data” than the CBA consumes on a jump drive.

He was further silenced by the NFLPA – told explicitly not to talk about concussions and CTE during the NFLPA’s 2011 Super Bowl press conference.

As Patrick Hruby reported, Morey proposed the implementation of the Players Health Trust, and although funds had been allocated, the Trust was apparently “scuttled” for reasons unknown.

Pamphilon asked Morey why he resigned from the NFLPA. What Morey said was shocking:

Because it became abundantly clear that I had been betrayed. Every player that played the game, every player that plays the game today is being betrayed by their union. Because they are dismissing this issue, because they don’t want to incur additional liability, and they are trying to protect themselves. – Sean Morey, The United States of Football

Kyle Turley shared similar sentiments with Pamphilon, “For us to have a union that is supposed to fight for us, they have failed miserably.”

The NFLPA, although arguably equally culpable for misleading its players, has remained out of the concussion courtroom. Perhaps that needs to change.

According to congressional testimony, Morey didn’t learn about the risks of chronic brain damage from his union – the organization charged with protecting the players. Nope, it wasn’t until 2008 when Chris Nowinski told Morey about “some disturbing new research about concussions and the potential long term cumulative effect of repetitive brain trauma.”

If that’s not a testament to the NFLPA’s failure, I’m not sure what is.

Not until 2008. Really? Meanwhile, there had been more than eight decades of science identifying this disturbing link, and no one from the union apparently informed the players.

The players were left in the dark.

What about that 1994 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study commissioned by the NFLPA that found that former players were 1.5-2.3 times more likely to die from brain and nervous system disorders than the general population?

The NFLPA spun the study and proclaimed it as confirmation that players don’t die early.

The 1994 study also recommended more research should be performed. I guess the NFLPA delegated this task to Elliot Pellman and his cohorts.

So, yeah, the NFLPA may now be concerned about concussions, but where were they 25, 15, 10, even 5 years ago?

The NFL has agreed to dish out $765 million to make (some of) the former players go away.

What has the NFLPA done?

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