CONCUSSION INC: The End of Football As We Know It will be published shortly by ECW Press. View the front and back cover images here.
by Irvin Muchnick
For basic coverage of former WWE wrestler Billy Jack Haynes’ class action lawsuit against the company for alleged concealment from the talent of known traumatic brain injury risks, see the excellent article by Keith Harris at Cageside Seats, http://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2014/10/26/7074747/former-wwe-wrestler-billy-jack-haynes-files-concussion-lawsuit. I offer here pointers to this topic from our archives.
The fate of individual pieces of litigation is not the focus of my work. Here, I would agree with those who argue that Haynes has an even tougher road to hoe than ex-National Football Leaguers. Indeed, WWE wasn’t even WWE when Haynes worked for it, 1986-88; it was WWF, World Wrestling Federation. His era reaches back very deep into a history when the psychological term “denial” might better denote the standards than the tortious term “cover-up.”
Then there’s the independent contractor thing. The legalistic fiction by which WWE pretends that its performers are not employees has implications far beyond the health care and other benefits … not … of the people whose sweat of the brow makes the brand. Non-employee status also robs governments at all levels of untold millions in payroll taxes.
But to return to the narrative and not the court proceedings per se, Harris is exactly right that the Haynes action is yet another setting for exposing the individual and corporate lies of WWE.
Where those lies are most interesting to me is in the interlocking expertise of WWE’s chief doctor, Joseph Maroon, who also moonlights as a founder of the borderline-fraudulent ImPACT Concussion Management Program, neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and member of the National Football League’s panel of clinical research manipulators and tobacco industry-like doubt merchants.
As we have chronicled over the years, Maroon lied about the concussion history of Steeler Terry Long, who committed suicide by drinking antifreeze. Maroon lied because he was trying to discredit Dr. Bennet Omalu, the father of modern chronic traumatic encephalopathy research. (Omalu extended to football and other activities the long-known dangers of boxing.) See “Dr. Joseph Maroon’s Disturbing Pattern of Misstatements,” January 5, 2011, https://concussioninc.net/?p=3515.
Maroon also lied about his and WWE’s access to Omalu’s post-mortem slides of the brain tissue of prematurely dead wrestlers Chris Benoit and Andrew “Test” Martin. Omalu’s Benoit study, following his double murder-suicide in Georgia in 2007, was the first under the auspices of the Sports Legacy Institute, which was started by another retired WWE performer, Chris Nowinski. See “EXCLUSIVE: Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director Met With Chris Benoit Brain Experts in 2008,” December 14, 2009, https://concussioninc.net/?p=1263. See also “More on the 2008 Meeting of Linda McMahon’s WWE Medical Director at the West Virginia Brain Institute,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=2904.
Finally, WWE Inc.’s principal owners, the McMahon family – patriarch Vince, wife (and two-time $50-million-self-funded-loser Senate candidate) Linda, and daughter (and company executive) Stephanie – have lied up, down, sideways, and backwards in their public statements about concussions, bans on chair shots, and related matters.
These statements include Stephanie’s under oath in 2007 to the investigative staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. See “Now Don’t You Go Accusing Linda McMahon’s Daughter of Lying to Congress,” July 9, 2010, https://concussioninc.net/?p=2521.