According to ESPN, the family of legendary San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau has sued the NFL. The Seau family and their lawyers have claimed that the player’s suicide was a direct result of the extensive brain damage Seau suffered over the All-Pro’s 20 seasons in the NFL.
The legal action taken is specifically a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the league for its”acts or omissions” in hiding the dangers of repeated and traumatic hits to the head. More than 3,800 players have sued the league over head injuries, but in only a very few instances have the players struggled as mightily as Seau did.
“We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE,” the family said in a statement released to the AP. “While Junior always expected to have aches and pains from his playing days, none of us ever fathomed that he would suffer a debilitating brain disease that would cause him to leave us too soon.
“We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.”
Upon Seau’s death, his family donated his brain to science, hoping that an answer to their loved one’s deep manic-depressive behavior in recent years. What was discovered was chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Previously thought to only be prevalent in boxers, CTE is developed of years of taking direct blows to the head. His son, 23-year old Tyler Seau, described the difficult battles waged within his father’s head.
“He emotionally detached himself and would kind of ‘go away’ for a little bit,” Tyler Seau said. “And then the depression and things like that. It started to progressively get worse.”
The lawsuit claims that the NFL knowingly ignored and concealed evidence of the risks associated with traumatic head injuries in order to further the goals of the league. In fact, the suit explicitly claims that money was a driving factor in sacrificing the well-being of players such as Seau.
“The NFL knew or suspected that any rule changes that sought to recognize that link (to brain disease) and the health risk to NFL players would impose an economic cost that would significantly and adversely change the profit margins enjoyed by the NFL and its teams,” the Seaus said in the suit.
While, again, many former players have sued the league, Seau’s case may prove to be a landmark decision should it go all the way to court. The NFL has denied for years that it knew about the links between tackles and hits and potential brain damage. Then, when the links began to crop up, the league was adamant in stating that is had been doing its due-diligence and putting the protection of its players first and foremost.
“The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels,” the league told the AP after it was revealed Seau had CTE.
If the NFL is found guilty and made partly responsible for the death of one of its most popular and well-known players, the floodgates will be opened for the rest of the lawsuits against the league.
More importantly, the world will finally understand the extent of any potential fraudulence on the part of the NFL. There will be firings made in the league front office, there will be millions upon millions of dollars paid out, and there will be changes made to the rules of the game as we know it.
But, finally, one tortured family will be at peace.
And the life — and tragic death — of the great Junior Seau will have meant far more than any football game.