Former Super Bowl most valuable player Ottis Anderson, one of 75 players named in this week’s lawsuit charging the National Football League with covering up research on traumatic brain injury, now says it’s all a mistake, that he’s not a plaintiff.
As someone who has consulted in complex litigation, I think it unlikely – to put it mildly – that the law firms which filed this action failed to secure retainer agreements with all the named plaintiffs. So on that front … whatever. Anderson changed his mind. There are 74 other named plaintiffs, as you can see in my post yesterday.
The bigger lesson is that the threat to the football system does not stem from any individual litigant or piece of litigation, but from the accumulation of them. Anderson’s case of cold feet also reminds us that the more substantial moral and societal case for NFL accountability in the concussion pandemic rests at the amateur level.
High-profile deaths and disability have PR value (if I may put it so crudely), but also, often, substantial legal hurdles. At its root, the problem with football and mental health is the problem with the American dream machine: the separation in sports between professionals and amateurs, which these days can be more semantic than anything. In a sense, we have ceased to have amateur athletes; we have only pros and wannabe pros.
It is chilling to see how this mindset plays out at the NFL’s new “health and safety” website, in a video by the league concussion co-czar, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen. That will be the subject of my post tomorrow.