It must be difficult to be the senior vice president in charge of health and safety in an organization where damage to the health and risks to the safety of the employees are constant, especially since the acts that damage the health and risk the safety of the employees are not incidental; they are business as usual, necessary to the generation of profit.
Seating such a vice president before a congressional committee investigating work-related damage in his industry would seem unlikely to provoke straight answers.
But on Monday, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, said, “the answer to that question is certainly ‘yes.’”
Rather than protect the shield ... a vice president of the league has acknowledged a link between his business and brain damage among the men who make that business possible.
The question, raised by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, was whether Mr. Miller thought there was a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like CTE.
That’s something neither Miller’s boss, Roger Goodell, nor anybody else with the league has directly acknowledged. On Tuesday, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy had that in mind when he tried some damage control.
“He made the additional point that a lot more questions need to be answered,” said McCarthy of Miller’s acknowledgement. “We know the answers will come as this field of study continues to advance.”
But the answer had already come. It was “yes.” That “yes” put a senior vice president of the NFL in the same camp as Ann McKee and numbers of other physicians who’ve concluded that concussions and lots of sub-concussive hits to the head permanently damage the brain. At last count, McKee had examined the brains of 94 men who’d played in the NFL. Ninety of those brains exhibited evidence of CTE. Granted, McKee and her colleagues have been more likely to gain access to the brains of men who’d suffered from dementia, memory loss, violent mood swings, and self-destructive behavior, including suicide. But ninety out of ninety four?
More study will bring more knowledge about CTE. But no matter what back-peddling and spin-doctoring Jeff Miller’s “Yes” provokes, as of Monday we have something that we’d not previously had. Rather than protect the shield, rather than write a check and hope the public would forget the problem by the time the next season began, a vice president of the league has acknowledged a link between his business and brain damage among the men who make that business possible.