The NFL season is in high gear — a fact that pleases the roughly 64 percent of Americans who watch football. The season rolls on despite the now constant news about concussions in the sport.
The recent TV documentary League of Denial and the book by the same name claim that for years the NFL had denied and covered up evidence linking football and brain damage. Is the concussion conversation challenging this country's deep love for the game?
Dave Duerson (right), in 1988. Duerson committed suicide in 2011 and wrote a note that included this request: "Please see that my brain is given to the NFL's brain bank."
Credit Keith Srakocic / AP
The casket bearing the body of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster is surrounded by flowers, after funeral services in Pittsburgh in September 2002. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, authors of League of Denial, point to Webster's autopsy as one of the most significant moments in the history of sports.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, you could argue that no one played a bigger role than Mike Webster. Webster was the Steelers' center, snapping the ball to the quarterback, then waging war in the trenches, slamming his body and helmet into defensive players to halt their rush.
He was a local hero, which is why the city was stunned when his life fell apart. He lost all his money, and his marriage, and ended up spending nights in the bus terminal in Pittsburgh. Webster died of a heart attack, and on Sept. 28, 2002, came the autopsy.
A dark cloud hanging over the National Football League is a bit lighter today. There is a proposed settlement in a huge concussion lawsuit, brought by over 4,000 former players. The agreement was reached and announced yesterday, a week before the start of the new NFL season. If approved, the league will pay out $765 million to as many as 18,000 former players. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.