Brain Damage, Not Domestic Violence Will Hasten the NFL’s Downfall

Junior Seau and Dave Duerson were both found to have CTE after they killed themselves.

Junior Seau and Dave Duerson were both found to have CTE after they killed themselves.

The past week has been a public relations nightmare for the National Football League (NFL) and its commissioner, Roger Goodell. First, Goodell came under fire from social and mainstream media for his gross mishandling of a domestic violence incident involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after a video surfaced showing Rice knocking his wife unconscious with a punch to the face in an Atlantic City hotel elevator.

Days later, one of the league’s marquee stars, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, was indicted on charges of child abuse for beating his four-year-old son. Shortly after being reinstated by the Vikings after sitting out a game, pictures of his allegedly abused son hit the internet, amid reports that Peterson is supposedly under investigation for abusing another one of his young children, via yahoo.com.

The public was outraged by the league’s perceived indifference towards domestic violence, which became the subject of endless talk show commentary. Yet, it is a story from last week which received very little national attention that poses the greatest threat to the league’s long-term profits and viability.

The NFL submitted documents in federal court which concluded that “it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population,” via the New York Times. This position represents a 180 degree turn from the league’s long-standing claim that there is no evidentiary link between concussions and cognitive impairment in former players. In fact, the league went to great lengths to withhold such evidence from players and the public, via ESPN.com.

The avalanche of anecdotal evidence linking professional football to cognitive impairment has picked up speed in recent years, with the suicides of former players Andre Waters, Ray Easterling, Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, the murder/suicide case of Kansas City Chiefs lineback Javon Belcher, and the advent of new technology, which provides greater insight into the condition of the human brain.

Researchers are now able to test deceased athletes for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative brain disease that can follow multiple hits to the head. A study published in the journal Brain in December 2012, examined the brains of 35 deceased former football players. Of the 35 players, 34 of them at the professional level, who had brain tissue sampled posthumously for the study, all but one showed evidence of disease.

The report submitted by the league in court was not accompanied by a startling video like the one TMZ.com acquired of Rice punching his girlfriend, though the numbers in the report are startling and there is plenty of jarring footage demonstrating the tragic results of too many hits to the head. The excerpts below from the PBS feature “League of Denial” of late Pittsburgh Steeler great Mike Webster and former New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins safety Gene Atkins are two disturbing examples.

Many other former players have provided chilling accounts of their declining quality of life in recent years, including these heartbreaking comments by Hall-of-Famer Tony Dorsett.

The Rice and Peterson situations will blow over as soon as the ultra-reactionary Twittersphere finds a new target for its collective outrage. Goodell could take the fall if team owners bow to pressure from sponsors who are beginning to grumble about the league’s handling of the Rice and Peterson cases (Radisson suspended its sponsorship of the Vikings and Anheuser-Busch, sponsor of the official beer of the NFL, delivered scathing criticism of the league’s handling of the Peterson and Rice situations), but the NFL will walk away from the scandals relatively unscathed.

The league will commit to supporting charitable organizations that raise awareness about domestic violence, implement a stricter player conduct policy, and continue with business as usual.

But if the Rice and Peterson sagas are a mere blip on the NFL’s radar, the court documents submitted by the league represent a seismic shift, analogous to the admission by tobacco companies that evidence suggests a causal link between cigarettes and lung cancer.

The NFL has passed numerous new rules in recent years in an attempt to reduce the number of concussions, from prohibiting defenders from leading with their heads, to protecting “defenseless receivers,” to moving kickoffs up to the 40-yard-line. The league also implemented a more stringent protocol for players to return to the field after a concussion and continues to experiment with safer helmets.

However, football built its immense popularity on the type of collisions the NFL is now attempting to legislate out of the game. Modifying the game will alienate fans without solving the problem. The human body is not built to absorb hits from men the size and strength of professional football players, moving at remarkable speed.

Time is working against the NFL, as science discovers new ways to measure the impact of head trauma faster than the sport can address the issue. And the studies being conducted are no longer confined to the professional level. Earlier this year, the Journal of American Medical Association published a study, which concluded that “the brains of college football players are subtly different from the brains of other students, especially if the players have experienced a concussion in the past,” via the New York Times.

How much longer will parents allow their children to play such a barbaric game? At what point will elite athletes pursue sports that do not pose a significant risk of brain damage? When will the average fan stop tuning in to witness the carnage?

Football is entrenched in American society, and the NFL is an extremely powerful industry. The game will not disappear over night. But a steady decline in popularity, similar to the one experienced by boxing, is inevitable. The tipping point is likely to be a leaked video of a former star quarterback speaking gibberish or putting a shotgun to his chest, not an image associated with Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson.

New York Knicks’ Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2014 Offseason

1402446955000-c02-knicks-11

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2161974-ny-knicks-biggest-winners-and-losers-of-the-2014-offseason

Early Predictions for New York Knicks’ Starting Lineup

melo, shump, j.r.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2140023-early-predictions-for-ny-knicks-starting-lineup

Realistic Expectations for Cleanthony Early’s Rookie Season With the Knicks

Cleanthony Early

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2127138-realistic-expectations-for-cleanthony-earlys-rookie-season-with-ny-knicks

How Carmelo Anthony’s Past May Influence His Decision This Summer

carmelo-anthony-window-closing

Carmelo Anthony will have the opportunity to sign a maximum-salary contract for the third time in his career if he opts out of his current deal with the New York Knicks to become a free agent this summer, as expected. He cashed in on each of the previous two occasions, agreeing to deals with the Denver Nuggets and Knicks totaling $145 million, yet those decisions precipitated a void that dollars cannot fill.

One of the greatest scorers of this generation has made just one trip past the second round of the playoffs and has yet to compete in the NBA Finals during his 11 seasons in the league.

The cynical point of view is that Anthony simply valued money above all else. However, several factors impacted his contractual decisions, including a short-sighted agent, a desire to play in a big market and an untimely lockout. It is also easy judge those decisions harshly in hindsight by downplaying the role that unforeseen circumstances played in his experiences in Denver and New York.

Anthony signed his first veteran contract in the summer of 2006, with one year remaining on his rookie deal with the Nuggets. Denver offered the 22-year-old the maximum amount allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, $80 million over five years, and Anthony jumped at it. The deal included a clause which enabled Carmelo to opt out after the fourth year.

“It was a no-brainer for me,” Anthony said. “When all the rumors were out there saying I was signing this type of deal or that type of deal, my family called me and said, ‘Look, are you crazy?’ Growing up we don’t have [much],” via ESPN.com.

Anthony’s friends and fellow members of the 2003 draft class, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, did not believe that signing the maximum deals offered by their respective teams (the same five years and $80 million) was a “no-brainer.” All three sacrificed a substantial amount of guaranteed money in favor of greater wealth down the road and signed three-year contracts worth about $43 million, with a player option for a fourth year.

Bosh, Wade and James understood that as seven-year veterans they would be eligible to negotiate a maximum contract worth 30 percent of the salary cap if they opted out of their contracts in 2010. Players with less than seven years of experience can only earn up to 25 percent of the cap.

Carmelo and LeBron have been friends since high school.

Carmelo and LeBron have been friends since high school.

In 2010, James, Wade and Bosh joined forces on the Miami Heat and are currently pursuing a third consecutive championship. Anthony, who has been close friends with James since high school, and played with all three on the U.S. Olympic team, could have teamed up with one or more of the future Hall of Famers in a number of locations, including Miami and New York, if he had signed a shorter deal. He also would have avoided the complications presented by the lockout the following year. Instead, Carmelo could not become a free agent until the summer of 2011.

Anthony refused a contract extension offered by the Nuggets in 2010 and the Brooklyn native made it known that he wanted to sign a maximum-salary contract to play with his friend Amar’e Stoudemire for the Knicks. A long-anticipated lockout of the players by the owners following the 2010-11 season put a wrench in his plan.

Amid widespread speculation that maximum salaries would be significantly reduced under the new CBA, Anthony felt compelled to sign a new deal before the lockout. The only way he could do that with the Knicks would be if the Nuggets traded him to New York before the 2011 trade deadline, so he requested a trade.

The star forward had leverage over Denver. He could have left them empty-handed by departing via free agency over the summer and was able to determine his destination by refusing to sign an extension with any team other than the Knicks.

Denver obliged and on Feb. 21, 2011, traded Anthony, along with Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams to the Knicks in exchange for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, second round picks in 2012 and 2013, a first round pick in 2014 and the right to swap picks with the Knicks in 2016, as part of a three-way deal that also involved the Minnesota Timberwolves. Anthony promptly signed the largest extension allowed under the CBA, a three-year, $65 million deal, beginning in 2012-13.

The move backfired on Anthony. Stoudemire’s body began to give out soon after Carmelo’s arrival. The six-time All-Star played sporadically over the past three seasons and has been reduced to a shadow of the explosive superstar he was with the Phoenix Suns.

Carmelo never had the opportunity to play with a healthy Stoudemire.

Carmelo never had the opportunity to play with a healthy Stoudemire.

The NBA gifted the Knicks a way out from under Stoudemire’s colossal contract with an amnesty clause in the new CBA. Instead, the Knicks used the provision to erase the final year of Chauncey Billups’s contract from the cap in December, 2011, just six months after picking up the option on his deal, in order to sign Tyson Chandler.

To make matters worse, the rollback on maximum salaries under the new CBA was not nearly as severe as the players had feared. In the first year of a new contract, a player may still receive up to 105 percent of his prior salary. Annual increases for non-Bird contracts (which Anthony’s would have been had he signed with the Knicks as a free agent) dropped from 8 percent to 4.5 percent.

The Knicks were expected to have about $17 million in cap space in the summer of 2011, assuming they renounced the rights to free agent Wilson Chandler, though they would not have had much trouble unloading a player, such as Anthony Randolph (who was traded to Minnesota in the Anthony deal and was scheduled to make $2.9 million in 2011-12, or Ronny Turiaf, who earned $4.3 million that season) in order to offer Melo a max deal.

The maximum amount Anthony could have earned over the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons by signing with the Knicks as a free agent would have been about $58, $7 million less than the extension he agreed to. However, since Anthony will be opting out of the final year of the deal, it is worth noting that the difference in money during the first two years of the contract extension would have been about $3 million.

For $3 million, Anthony ensured that three-and-half years of his prime would be spent on a mediocre team with virtually no financial flexibility, young talent or draft picks.

He could not have anticipated the exact results of the lockout, how much New York would give up for him or that Stoudemire’s career would nose-dive, but he did know that he was depleting the team’s talent and limiting its maneuverability. The Knicks could have used the assets they surrendered for him to acquire another star, such as Chris Paul, to add talent through the draft or create cap space. Anthony also should have been aware that he was committing to a team with an incompetent owner and a history of head-scratching personnel moves.

Now Carmelo finds himself at a crossroads once again. He turns 30 on May 29th. Basketball mortality is on the horizon. This is his last shot at a maximum-salary contract. It is also his final opportunity to put himself in position to be a top dog on a championship contender.

New York can offer him $33 million more than any other team, but that cash comes with no guarantees. The Knicks will not have the cap space to add another star player until 2015, and their track record, combined with a dearth of valuable assets does not instill confidence in their ability to build a contender. Teams like the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets have the pieces in place to win a championship with Anthony in the fold.

LeBron took control of his own destiny by sacrificing a little money to join Wade and Bosh in Miami, rather than relying on faith that the Cleveland Cavaliers would build a championship team around him. Carmelo should take a cue from his friend. History suggests otherwise.

How to Improve the New York Knicks’ Point Guard Situation Next Season

felton

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2053773-how-to-fix-new-york-knicks-point-guard-situation-next-season

Five Realistic Free Agent Targets for the New York Knicks

phil

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2048335-realistic-2014-free-agency-targets-for-the-ny-knicks


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow me on twitter @paulieknep

Archives


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 146 other followers

%d bloggers like this: