One of the things that has always mystified me on the concussion front is how the NFLPA has been virtually ignored. As the entity charged with representing the players and protecting their health and safety, the NFLPA has essentially been given a free pass on the issue.
Currently, there are lawsuits pending against the NFL, Pop Warner, the NCAA and many other entities. The basic allegations in each complaint rely on the fact that the sponsoring organization had a duty to the athletes and failed to protect them, and in many cases, hid the dangers of concussions away from them.
The NFL in particular has been accused of downplaying the dangers of concussions and using a committee of highly unqualified individuals to make the decisions for the league. The problem the league faces is that, until recently, their actions are quite clearly against the weight of medical science. Their Head, Neck and Spine committee consisted of people who were not neurologists and did not have the credentials to advise on these issues, much less lead the way.
But the question I don’t see anyone asking is “Where was the NFLPA while this fiasco was going on.” It is reasonable to be in the camp of believing that the NFL acted inappropriately and that the league hid dangers and used unqualified people to distort the research (or at minimum, minimize the impact of the research). Yet I see no groups taking on the NFLPA or even questioning where their leadership was while the concussion crisis started to take shape.
The group in the best position to take on the powerhouse of the NFL is the NFLPA. The players alone have little power. The agents have virtually no power on these issues. Long time agent Leigh Steinberg has said that he was presenting concussion issues to the league in the early 1990’s with no success.
So while the NFLPA may not have been in a position to take the lead role, surely it had the obligation and the right to question how the NFL examined this issue. It seems to me that this was a failure of leadership on the part of the NFLPA and the NFLPA may have been more concerned with other financial issues for the players and with long term health benefits, both worthwhile causes. You may read this and say, hey, Roy Kessel, who are you to question the NFLPA. Having been certified as an NFL Contract Advisor (i.e. agent), and having attended numerous NFLPA seminars, Sports Lawyers Association Seminars and having taught at Northwestern, this is an issue that I have examined on many occasions.
While I agree that the NFLPA should not have primary liability on this issue, I do not see how the media has failed to question the union as it relates to their actions. I have asked this question to former players, media members and even many involved in the “concussion” industry. I am still waiting for an answer. If you have one, I would love to hear it below.