by Irvin Muchnick
Last night Concussion Inc. broke the story of an emergency paramedics’ report describing the scene where Garden City Community College player Braeden Bradforth, who had collapsed and soon would be pronounced dead, was sprayed with a water hose at the direction of the coaches before the too-late 911 call.
The head coach, Jeff Sims — who now has jumped from the college in Kansas to Missouri Southern State University — erroneously, and perhaps with calculated disregard for the already heavily suspected truth, told news outlets that Bradforth had died from a blood clot that had no relation to football. But in fact, as the autopsy released two weeks ago firmly concluded, the young man expired from exertional heat stroke (EHS).
Bradforth is college football conditioning‘s (not games’ or contact scrimmages’) 36th authoritatively reported fatality this century. He is the third such student-athlete death this year, and the second (after the major media-scrutinized case of Jordan McNair at Maryland) in which EHS was the cause.
The documentation beginning to trickle out from Garden City suggests something else Bradforth may have been: a homicide victim.
Sims’s arguable agency in Bradforth’s death has strong whiffs of the facts in a 2008 high school football death in Louisville. There player Max Gilpin died of EHS sustained in a brutal conditioning session in the heat. Coach Jason Stinson was tried for reckless homicide and wanton endangerment. A jury acquitted Stinson at the criminal trial. The school district ultimately settled a wrongful death lawsuit by the family for $1.75 million.
The Stinson-Gilpin case was the subject of a 2010 Sports Illustrated article by Thomas Lake, “The Boy Who Died of Football,” which can be read at https://www.si.com/vault/2010/12/06/106012866/the-boy-who-died-of-football .
Our sports news outlets aren’t too comfortable when the realities of death and crime creep into core narratives of spectacle, fantasy, divertissement. SI is among the better ones, sometimes providing longform thoughtful investigative takeouts long after the fact. These are usually highly literary efforts. As for investigations in real time, or even sharply critical parsing of initial official statements, so as to heighten public awareness of the systematic human cost of entertainment and to maximize the accountability of the industry’s worst actors … not so much.
On August 3, two days after Braeden Bradforth’s death, SI.com’s Charlotte Carroll wrote an account, much of it apparently cobbled from generic Garden City newspaper and wire service coverage, with this passage:
“While an autopsy will determine cause of death, Sims said an emergency room doctor told him a test was indicative of a blood clotting disorder. According to Sims, a blood clot likely broke free, traveled to his heart and caused him to have a heart attack.
‘Something that could have happened, anytime or anywhere,’ Sims said.”
But what SI.com quoted is now known to have been at best misleading and at worst a lie. So, four months later, have the magazine and writer Carroll caught up their readers with the truth in the public record?
The answer is no.
This morning I emailed Carroll, at what seems to be a good address for her, and asked whether she or SI.com were in the process of reporting on new developments in the Bradforth death. As this article was being published, I had not heard back.
Next, I’ll kick the query up to Sports Illustrated managing editor Chris Stone and let readers know what I hear back.
DEATH OF BRAEDEN BRADFORTH — CHRONOLOGICAL HEADLINE LINKS