I disagree with part of Rick Telander’s first reaction to the lawsuit against the National Football League by the family of Dave Duerson.
Telander (who, along with Paul Solotaroff, wrote last year’s fine article for Men’s Journal on Duerson’s decline and suicide) commented in the Chicago Sun-Times: “The NFL is going to fight this hard, bet on that. And the smear campaign against Dave Duerson, a former hard-nut players union executive, is a near certainty.”
The first sentence is unassailable. But the second is debatable. You can’t smear what is already soiled.
Here’s how I put it in my Friday column for Beyond Chron (which is reproduced in full in the previous item on this blog):
As the process plays out, the Duerson family and image themselves will not emerge unscathed. Last year’s suicide got spun as martyrdom because of the decedent’s instructions to donate his brain tissue for research by Boston University’s Center for the Study of CTE. The part about Duerson as a bad guy in his role as a NFL Players Association retirement board trustee got muted. That will no longer be the case, as the NFL’s legal team submits for the court record and magnifies Duerson’s every utterance in his years of denial.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune correctly points out that Duerson’s own horrible statements and actions, especially when he served on the retirement board and denied other ex-players’ mental health claims, cannot be erased by his melodramatic end:
[Making Duerson into a martyr] bothers former players such as [Brent] Boyd and Bernie Parrish…. [T]he family of a man who once passionately fought against mercy for retirees now seeks it on his behalf. Parrish recalled Duerson screaming obscenities at him while fighting retiree benefits at another ’07 Congressional hearing. “I’m not a Duerson fan and think his suicide should have triggered an audit of the NFL retiree pension fund he oversaw,” said Parrish, 75, a former player and NFLPA official. “But I believe his family’s justified. It’s complicated.” (“Dave Duerson wrong symbol for brain injury sufferers,” http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-02-25/sports/ct-spt-0226-haugh-duerson–20120225_1_dave-duerson-brain-damage-tregg-duerson.)