Belinda Lerner, executive director of the National Football League Player Care Foundation, provided clarifications of her statements about Dave Duerson last month to Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com. In one key respect, Lerner has admitted she was mistaken.
In my follow-ups with her, via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, Lerner at first continued to insist that Duerson was one of the three NFL Players Association trustees at the August 2010 meeting. But after carefully reviewing the minutes, Lerner now acknowledges that Duerson was replaced there by alternate Andre Collins. Duerson did attend the next meeting, in New Orleans in November, before committing suicide in February of this year.
Regarding Lerner’s recollection that Duerson was fine “the last time” she saw him, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: “Dave also attended the November 17 Board Meeting in New Orleans, the last time Belinda saw him and last time he acted as a trustee. Belinda recalls that meeting as when he introduced his fianceé to the other Board participants.” Of course, that was three months, not six months, prior to Duerson’s death.
The NFL’s Aiello, whom I respect as a consummate professional, expressed pique at my line of questions. “We are trying to be helpful. This is not a deposition. Belinda was pretty clear that whatever comments were attributed to her were based on the last time she saw Dave – precise date was unknown. Why are you more concerned about the dates than her observations of Dave?”
I responded to Greg: “To be clear, this all started because I’d read Alex Marvez’s 8/16/11 coverage of the Andrew Stewart court case. One important focus of Marvez’s story was whether Duerson’s participation as a trustee matters in disputed disability claims — an issue I have been pushing, as you may know. I don’t speak for Marvez, but as a reader of his work I know him to be a good and careful reporter, and I suspect he would have written his story quite differently had he known that Duerson didn’t hear Stewart’s particular case (which would come out at the pretrial hearing last week or in the discovery leading up to it).”
I added to Aiello: “Why the FoxSports.com article proceeded from a flawed premise is not something I’m going to speculate on in this email, except to note that Marvez had multiple NFL sources (not just Belinda Lerner). But I emphasize that my questions here were and are legitimate. No, I was not deposing Ms. Lerner; I was asking her questions for a piece of journalism, in the course of which I also openly answered your own questions as to why I was asking them. I am glad I got the right answers, even if it took a few rounds.”
Further crucial questions remain. Why wasn’t Duerson at the Boston meeting? And did he miss any other board meetings, and if so, why?
Meanwhile, Lerner’s account of Duerson’s introduction of his fianceé in November 2010 does fill in some gaps in the timeline of the last months of his life. More on that shortly.