Harry Carson: I hold football responsible for Ray Easterling’s suicide


About a year before he committed suicide, former Falcons defensive back Ray Easterling sent an e-mail to former Giants linebacker Harry Carson, asking Carson to continue to advocate for himself and other players who were struggling to deal with brain injuries and other health problems in retirement. Carson knew from that e-mail that Easterling was in bad shape, and after Easterling killed himself, Carson said he blames the game.

I hold the game of football responsible,” Carson told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News.

Carson noted, however, that the problem of brain injuries in football goes beyond the NFL and extends to all levels of football. And although Carson supports the former players who are suing the NFL over concussions, he personally hasn’t joined those suits.

“I feel like I am a messenger,” Carson said. “If I join a lawsuit, then people will say, ‘You see Harry Carson joined the lawsuit, so whatever he says carries no weight, he’s going in it for the money.’ I feel I don’t want my message to be tainted.”

Carson, who posted an edited version of the e-mail from Easterling on his website, said he now wishes he could have done more for a fellow player he didn’t know personally but did know was in need of help.

“In some ways, we all failed him,” Carson said. “He took the action he felt he needed to take.”

33 responses to “Harry Carson: I hold football responsible for Ray Easterling’s suicide

  1. I am glad you hold football responsible. Easterling couldn’t have had any responsibility whatsoever for his life and/or choices.

    Everyone always wants to blame someone else. Easterling made a choice, if he didn’t know the risks then he shouldn’t have done it. That goes for anyone and everyone with whatever they do.

    Risks are inherent anytime physical violence is involved. If you don’t realize that, it is your fault not the act.

    I am sorry he felt he needed to kill himself, however that is his bed that he made. Football didn’t make his kill himself, he did. He might’ve been sick but ultimately he made the choice.

  2. I feel for Ray Easterling’s family, but seriously this is getting ridiculous with the blaming of football anytime a former player commits suicide. I also believe the only reason these former players are suing the NFL is because they haven’t done squat in their post-NFL days and are looking for some kind of payday. A perfect example, is Troy Airman in on these lawsuits?

  3. Some of these former players are really tainting the game we all love. I’m really getting tired of it, especially blaming football for someone killing themself. How about we place responsibility on the person committing suicide instead of trying to indict others or the game itself?

  4. Standing up for all players while abstaining from participating in the lawsuit, to avoid the appearance of biased motivations, certainly makes Mr. Carson a very credible witness on this issue.

  5. Employers have a responsibility to make the work place as safe as possible, disclosing any and all risks they know of. Additionally, if they know of ways to make the work place safer, they are obligated to do so. If they did all that, they have nothing to worry about. If not, they’ll be hit hard and they should be.

  6. So nice of Harry Carson to simply put the blame on football, rather than on the person to whom Easterling reached out to for help with that e-mail, huh?

  7. I’m with Bigjdve, taking your own life if ultimately a choice. It really sucks that option was the one he chose to go with. I’m glad Harry Carson doesn’t JUST look at the NFL for blame, but football gave these guys a lot of great things too. I find it impossible to believe players had no idea to the extent of damage possible from slamming into each other. How many of us have heard of pro-football players hitting each other with the equivelent force of a car wreck? I know this probably wasn’t known prior to the 90’s, but former players could have atleast taken steps to alleviate potential issues down the road. If pictures of Ali aren’t enough to tell you the effects of massive head trauma, I’m not sure any safety measure will protect you from you.

  8. I get what your trying to say Bigjdve. A lot of us make choices in career paths we may not want to make. people get stressed, bad backs and broken down bodies everywhere because of those choices. Let me make this clear before I go into my point. I love football and always will. I’ll never miss a giants game and this will always be a passion of mine until I’m gone. With that said, I understand where the players are coming from. And to be honest, the trauma to the brain from this sport is alarming. And once you have concussion like symptoms for the later half of life, your life is pretty much over. It’s like the worst headache of your life almos every day you wake up. Once you put that into perspective, one could understand why someone would want to end it. So I’m all about the players getting the most they can from the nfl. The nfl certainly gets the most from its players.

  9. When I was a kid, after my first football season, my dad had told me that if I continue to play football, one day I would have aches and pains in my body, that I would have to live the rest of my life with.

    That day came about 10 years ago, and I don’t regret a single snap that I played.

    I knew the risk going in, and take responsibility for the pain I live with.

    Sorry, but don’t tell me that these players didn’t have ANY idea what they were doing to their bodies. It is a bunch of BS and everyone knows it.

    Lets look at jobs that are REAL risks. Soldiers, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Coal Miners, Ice Fishermen, and the list goes on and on. These are men and women that put their actual LIVES on the line, every day. No 6 months off of vacation, no league minimum salaries, and no whining that when they are no longer able to continue doing those jobs about how unfair it was that they didn’t make enough money.

    The reality is, most of these men got FREE college educations (IF they were smart enough to stay in school and get a degree), they were the studs in High School and College and were treated like royalty. They got to play a game that MILLIONS of people play for free in parking lots, streets and fields across this country every day.

    Yes, there is a danger in their jobs, but it could be a LOT worse.

    Get over yourselves guys. You knew, even though you don’t want to now admit it, the risks that were involved.

    You didn’t handle your money good enough, now you are broke, and forced into the reality most of us face on a daily basis. Get up, go to work, earn your keep. At least you have that free education to fall back on. That is a LOT more than most of us got.

  10. Harry Carson: I hold football responsible for Ray Easterling’s suicide

    Hopefully, he also holds football responsible for providing thousands and thousands of men over the years an extremely good livelihood. A good number of these men would be virtually unemployable due to lack of other skill sets. If you read at a grade school level and are earning $5 million a year, consider yourself blessed.

  11. The whining, the blaming, the scape goating of these NFL former players is nauseating. Its all footballs fault? The players have no responsibility at all right?
    These guys abuse sterods, abuse alcohol, pills and drugs, batter their wives and girlfiends and get into violent assaults. And thats all before they turn pro and join the NFL. These lawsuits are a joke, a last ditch attempt from thousands of failed players and borderliner NFLers who blew their money and made nothing of their lives. They should be ashamed. Them and their ambulance chasing lawyers.

  12. I’ve read every single comment and all I see, with few exceptions, is ignorant opinions. No, I’m not insulting you, I mean you are short on the facts of what Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is. In some of these instance it is the cause of the suicidal tendencies. Meaning it is no choice, it is a symptom of this neurological disorder. It’s not just dealing with the pain. It cause bouts of severe suicidal depression. Not the life choices the (CTE). This isn’t just caused from football. If someone was in a few car accidents and had enough head trauma they could suffer from it. Someone who had a severe concussion who then suffers another before the first has healed can get this condition. It effects the brain and how it functions. The person in addition to all the pain and reduced mental abilities, can also suffer from severe depression, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, panic attacks, delusions, loss of self image, paranoia, social phobias. So it’s just a bunch of crap. I just wish before developing opinions and being overly vocal about them, that people would actually make some attempt to read up a little bit. Maybe base their opinion on actual facts instead of some gut reaction, that is based in a phobia. A phobia that forms from not being able to deal with the fact that as a human being, your psychological stability is not guaranteed to be under your control just because you make good decisions and choices.

  13. I wonder when Boxers, MMA & UFC fighters will blame their sport for their head and other various injuries/problems etc.

  14. Standing up for all players while abstaining from participating in the lawsuit, to avoid the appearance of biased motivations, certainly makes Mr. Carson a very credible witness on this issue.

    This will prolly get a bunch of thumbs down.

    Actually this is a great statement. It helps shine a light on ANY former football player speaking of concusions or brain injuries.
    If the game damages the brain for so many players, and they are unable to handle the effects of the game. How are we to know any former player is in his right mind? Carson is more credible because he is not part of the lawsuit?
    Well just because you are not part of the lawsuit does not mean you have not suffered injury. It just means you are not part of the lawsuit or do not realize you have any injury to blame someone else for.
    The players are essencially saying, our brains are messed up because of the game. But pay attention to our messed up brains. Doesn’t that make any claim they may make suspect, because its comes from the brain they claim football damaged?
    Carson is saying, I’m credible, listen to me. But his brain went through the same stress as every other player of kis era.

    Not sure I presented this in a way that does not make it seem I suffrered the damage too.

  15. Imagine the symptoms we have from just playing sandlot football without helmets. We played mostly every day and we have no one to sue or blame.

    Look at the information that’s out there now. Is anyone quitting the NFL? Nope and no one would’ve quit then. Harry Carson is a good man it appears but if he didn’t play football we wouldn’t be listening to him here. Therefore, he has football to thank.

  16. Oh no cry the couch potatoes, the season ticket holders, and those that can’t bear the idea that this great game may need to change things up.

    You sound like this:
    “I just got my season tickets! I don’t want to hear about another guy killing himself! Can’t they all just do it in silence!”
    “Why don’t they just turn it into flag football!”

    NFL guys are too big and too fast to have helmets that offer a fake sense of security.
    Kids brains can not handle repetitive hits to the head.

    They would be better off playing the game without helmets over what they currently use. Force everyone to teach and use proper technique. You would have a lot more broken noses and missing teeth.
    This would sway many away from playing and watching the game. It would also save lives.

    Sorry. Have a nice day.

  17. I have not heard anyone talk about PEDs and that relation to the suicides. It’s well known that PEDs have been used for a long time in the NFL and long term use has a very negative effect on the brain.

  18. qdog112 says:
    Jun 10, 2012 3:14 PM
    Employers have a responsibility to make the work place as safe as possible, disclosing any and all risks they know of. Additionally, if they know of ways to make the work place safer, they are obligated to do so. If they did all that, they have nothing to worry about. If not, they’ll be hit hard and they should be.
    So what your saying is every bar owner on the planet can be sued by his employees because he lets people smoke in his bar. Of course now some places are nonsmoking but that only happened recently.

  19. It is always very sad to hear when someone commits suicide. It is also sad when people blame football for it. We all are entitled to our own decisions. Your parents, friends, family, teachers, etc aren’t going to go in your face with a shotgun and say “play football or I’ll blow your head off”. No one forced these men to play. They can easily walk away.

    One player that jumps to mind is Jason White. He retired before he could have put further risk to his body and health. You have plenty of guys that have had few concussions, yet they still continue to play and risk their lives.

    No one is making these guys play, they decide to play on their own. There are people that need it more than others, as they are supporting many more people for instance. The only thing I will say is that the NFL is a collision sport, not a contact sport and if you are playing/have played football you know what is at stake.

  20. I hold steroid use largely responsible much of this suicide ideation and depression. Nobody will admit to it because then its their own fault. Scwarzeneggar, holyfield, ex steeler furness, bruschi..holes in their heart. Mike webster..a mess, died young terry long..suicide..more ex steeler linemen, as well as justin strelzek going nuts. Not picking on steelers, im a huge fan but this is so obvious. Yes there are many head injuries, but it really irks me the steroid problem is not accepted as a major cause. I could go on and on but just cited a quick few in all sports, especially pro wrestling.

  21. @pftstory, read Carson’s autobiography. He makes note of his concussions and other injuries during his career that linger with him to this day. He understands it’s the price of admission to the NFL. What he is saying here is, Easterling’s suicide is the result of the punishment the game of football doled out… not anything the NFL, the NCAA, Easterling’s high school, or any other specific entity did or didn’t do. It’s equivalent to saying a firefighter will likely suffer from smoke inhalation, no matter how advanced the protective equipment is or will become in the future… and no one will know how that will affect any given firefighter.

    In these recent concussion stories, the story of Earl Campbell is often left out. Here’s a guy who dished out as much damage as he took, and after his retirement, he was afraid to leave his house and be out in public due to severe panic disorder. Once a doctor found the right meds, Campbell’s story faded away. Who’s to say that had he been evaluated more thoroughly at the time, Troy Aikman doesn’t play in a Super Bowl he can’t remember?

  22. anyone else remember the days before every symptom had to be labeled a new disease, when people were just stupid or made bad choices, everything that happened to a person wasnt someone elses fault. wasnt there a time it was like that or did i just dream it all?

  23. You arm-chair warriors crack me up. I don’t like frivolous lawsuits anymore than the next guy, and a court will decide if this is a frivilous lawsuit.

    But this idiocy about “oh, they knew the risks, it’s a violent game” or “i knew the risks before i embarked on my storied Pop Warner career and i still played” is just plain dumb.

    Yes, these guys did know the risks. that’s why the lawsuits aren’t called the “i’m 40 yrs old and have the knees of a 80 yr old man” lawsuits. Or the “i have eight fingers and two thumbs pointing in ten different directions and some really nasty arthritis” lawsuits. they knew that was a possibility. They’re called the “concussion” lawsuit for a reason. They didn’t know their brains could end up scrambled because, and a court will decide this, there may have been a chance that they were told to go back into a game and they were okay, when they actually weren’t.

  24. Let’s put things in a little perspective here.
    There are men and women laying down their lives everyday across the not just Sunday’s, so you can play a GAME for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.

    If you can’t put 2 + 2 together and figure out taking enough hits to the head wouldn’t cause some type of issues down the road, you surely didn’t get a good education from grammar school through college. Maybe you should file a class action suit against the educators that let you down.

    If you let yourselves be “used or misled” then you aren’t that bright.

    My prayers are with Mr. Easterling family.

  25. So, krev. You are privy to all the details on the alleged steroid use of all those you mentioned. And you have medical degrees and knowledge to diagnose the concussion related symptoms and long term effects that innumerable NFL players have experienced without even seeing them. You should get into the sh!t business as you are full of it.

    The majority of NFL players before the ’80’s were not making the big bucks that the elite made. Most of those dealing with those long term effects had no knowledge that the many collisions that they had had from H.S. into the NFL would produce those effects.

    If you had a brain, you would know that the NFL had not studied or warned players as a group until 2000.

    Many had voluntarily retired prior to that but those that did made their decisions based on doctor’s advice. NFL could resolve the suit by establishing a fund that would make sure that older players receive treatment for the injuries incurred on the job.

    Or would you rather pay for them with your taxes thru workers compensation claims?

  26. Thru my years of existence, i’ve seen where parents have encouraged their kids to play football and the kids would play. Then the kid would get hit so hard they would get dizzy and see stars for a minute or two. Some would even get bad headaches from the violent hit. It is at this moment where I have seen kids make their mind up and make “grown up” decisions about playing the game of football. A lot of these little kids would quit and never play the game again because they felt pain they never wanted to feel again. Even after encouragement from their parents that eveything would be alright and mockery from their peers of being scary cats for quitting, they still made their mind up they didn’t want to play no more.

    Now, i’m not knocking the seriousness of concussions and disorders caused from them. But you mean to tell me that after suffering something that makes you lose your memory, and sometimes the severity of losing consciousness, that “grown men” can’t make the right decision from there that I have seen so many 8-12 yr old kids do. Come on man! After a football player regains his sense after suffering a concussion, he knows nothing good can come out of losing your memory and whether or whether not he ever wants the possibility to experience that feeling again. Stop blaming the NFL people, its their decision to play the sport.

  27. mwindle1973: Just so we are clear, I understand that suicidal tendencies could be a symptom of a mental disease. So the choice to commit suicide could’ve had mitigating circumstances that made it seem like a viable choice.

    However I was speaking more to the choice to play and keep playing football. Here is the best analogy that I can think of. I let you punch me in the head, it hurts and I may or may not have a concussion. However, I really shouldn’t need anyone to tell me that nothing good can come of letting you hit me. Now it is my choice on whether or not I continue to let you do it. In the case of football players, alot of them continue because of many reasons. However they are responsible for any side effects because they kept doing things that got them hurt.

    That is like smokers. Cancer kills, pain and suffering is a symptom, however you shouldn’t need someone to tell you that introducing smoke into your body can kill you. I mean people die from smoke inhalation, why would smoking be safe.

    We have far to many times where people don’t want to take responsibility for what they did. Sometimes the aftereffects or whatever you want to call them are very harsh, however you still need to pay the piper.

    I love football, and I will be honest, if I could play even knowing the risks I would. Does that mean I am right, stupid, or a dreamer? Who knows, what I do know is that there of thousands of people that would trade places with those football players in a heartbeat. I think that they know that and that could be part of why they continue to play.

  28. george3246: I would love to see the NFLPA create a fund to take care of the players. That is what Unions are supposed to do.

    That is what their dues are for. If they need more to pay for that, then they should negotiate with the NFL for that.

    I think at that point, in good faith the NFL should negotiate so that there are monies available for that. However I believe that it should be the Unions responsibility to make sure that it is done.

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