by Irvin Muchnick
In an action brought by California attorney Thomas Girardi, of Erin Brockovich fame, and engineered by activist sports parent Kimberly Archie, a friend of Concussion Inc., Pop Warner Football this week found itself on the business end of a class-action lawsuit for endangering kids by knowingly exposing them to brain trauma.
The historical coverage of this issue by Alan Schwarz of the New York Times deserves the lion’s share of the credit for bringing about this monumental development. And it was the Times that broke the lawsuit story, and linked the legal complaint, at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/02/sports/football/concussions-pop-warner-class-action-lawsuit.html?_r=0.
What the newspaper’s story doesn’t say — in part because no single article can cram in everything, in part because the football industry’s crimes against public health are too inconvenient to too many powerful people — is that the medical director of Pop Warner Football, Dr. Julian Bailes, is now the highest-profile liar-enabler left in an experts industry crawling with liar-enablers. Bailes says repeatedly and publicly that there have been “no” deaths in youth football in decades — one of several provable untruths. Bailes and Pop Warner also extol the teaching of safe tackling and blocking technique; and it is the known futility and quackery of “heads-up football” that is at the heart of the class-action suit.
Bailes, who was portrayed by Alec Baldwin in Concussion, alongside Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, is on the movie-crony-laden board of the Bennet Omalu Foundation at the University of Pittsburgh — institutional ground zero of phony, for-profit “solutions” to the latest iteration of football’s concussion crisis.
Litigation is a blunt instrument. A lawsuit can’t change hearts and minds or even necessarily cripple an industry in the specific business of harming public health. (Today Big Tobacco, with its army of more than 75 lobbyists, is making a comeback on Capitol Hill to fight regulation of e-cigarettes.)
But Archie and Cornell v. Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. (and no, I’m not making up the name on the caption) is the best sign yet that the forces of sanity are mobilizing, and a Mothers Against Drunk Football movement is at hand.