Individual NFL owners haven’t said much about the ever-growing list of former players who have sued the league for concussions. If the talking points on this topic are “don’t talk about it,” Giants co-owner John Mara deviated from the script on Tuesday.
Visiting the editorial board of the Newark Star-Ledger to discuss the team’s position on a retail location that encroaches on the MetLife Stadium parking lot, Mara also talked about the issue of brain injuries in football.
“I’m on the health and safety committee, we have more medical committees looking into it,” Mara said, per Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger. “We’re just starting to gather more information about it. And I’m very confident we’re doing everything we can do right now to find out more about it.
“But the notion in these lawsuits that we knew there were long-term effects and we withheld that information is ridiculous. Is there some kind of cause and effect? I don’t know, I’ll let the medical experts tell you that; common sense would tell you that there is. But to say we knew it and withheld it, I really find that objectionable.”
Mara realizes that former players nevertheless are flooding the court system with this “ridiculous” contention because it provides a path to compensation they believe they deserve.
“[O]ne of the reasons why we have a lot of people joining these lawsuits is that we haven’t done a good enough job of taking care of retired players,” Mara said. “That’s an issue we need to come to grips with. We made a good start in this last CBA, and by allocating all this money to the Legacy Fund.”
Mara admitted that the league hasn’t done enough for retired players, not from a legal standpoint but from a moral one.
“[T]o me, the league as a whole hasn’t done as good a job as we could have,” Mara said. “And I see significant improvements in the future. But we still have to agree with the union on how to do this.”
Mara’s willingness to break ranks and talk about head injuries in a way more substantive and sensitive than, say, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones flippantly claiming he would have been the president if he hadn’t suffered 50 concussions while playing football, comes from Mara’s background as a member of a family that has owned a team for decades.
“For me, it’s a personal thing, because I grew up with these guys,” Mara said. “It’s shocking to me to see guys who, when they were players, you’d say, ‘This guy is going to have a good post-football career – very smart, has his degree. . . . And then it’s 10 years later, and he’s broke and out of work. It kills you to see that. It absolutely kills you.”
Plenty of former players are saying that it has killed them, too, in some cases literally. Regardless of whether it comes from litigation or bargaining or simple charity, the league needs to realize that something needs to be done to help the men on whose shoulders today’s players, coaches, and owners currently are standing.
Regardless of what the NFL previously has done, one of the league’s most influential owners believes the league hasn’t done enough.