On May 24 – the very day Judge J. Frederick Motz of U.S. District Court in Maryland dismissed former player Brent Boyd’s appeal of the National Football League retirement plan’s rejection of his mental disability claim – Dave Lopresti of USA Today wrote a touching column headlined “Struggle continues for widow of Dave Duerson,” http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/lopresti/2011-05-23-dave-alicia-duerson-brain-injury-nfl_N.htm.
In the piece, Alicia Duerson called her former husband’s February suicide “the tip of the iceberg” of the NFL’s traumatic brain injury problem. Lopresti recounted the former star defensive back’s domestic violence arrest, personal bankruptcy, and postmortem finding of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
He was a big man with a shrinking brain, Alicia Duerson said, adding: “His brain had started dying 10 years ago.”
There’s one more small thing USA Today didn’t discuss, and she apparently is not incorporating into the talking points of her CTE public awareness tour: the fact that Dave Duerson served on the review board, consisting of representatives from both the league and the NFL Players Association, which has stonewalled other retired players’ claims for head-injury benefits. In 2007, he even argued the retirement plan’s position on Capitol Hill, and during a break at a Congressional hearing, exploded in abuse at Brent Boyd and old player union leaders Sam Huff and Bernie Parrish.
And without that crucial connection, Dave Duerson’s suicide becomes just one more sob story.
In his travesty of a decision, Judge Motz held that Boyd’s attorneys did not prove “changed circumstances,” “abuse of discretion,” or “conflict of interest.” The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan successfully sold the argument that introducing into evidence a decade’s worth of new published findings on CTE, along with the reason for Duerson’s own death by self-inflicted gunshot, was simply a desperation ploy by a rejected disability claimant to get “a second bite of the apple.”
Oh, I see. The Duerson suicide was not a “changed circumstance” for the dozens, scores, or hundreds of retired players still living with depression, still unable to function or support their families or live normal lives, still getting no relief from the $9-billion-a-year NFL. It was only a “changed circumstance” for Alicia Duerson.