Seventeen Pro Football Hall of Famers and Dave Robinson, who will be inducted this weekend, have signed a letter telling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell they are concerned about medical care for former players and the league's "continued denial of the link between repeated head impacts and permanent brain damage."
The letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday and signed by NFL greats including Tony Dorsett, Floyd Little, Leroy Kelly and Paul Krause, comes just a few days ahead of the Hall of Fame festivities in Canton, Ohio.
The league is being sued by about 4,200 players who say they suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other neurological conditions, which they believe stem from on-field concussions. Ten of the letter's signees are plaintiffs in the ongoing legal fight: Dorsett, Kelly, Krause, Lem Barney, Chris Doleman, Mel Renfro, Tommy McDonald, Randy White, Rayfield Wright and Joe DeLamielleure.
Goodell and the NFL insist that player safety has always been a top priority, and league spokesman Greg Aiello told the AP in an email Wednesday night that the players don't have their facts right.
"We have not seen the letter, but we make no such denial regarding concussions," Aiello said. "In fact, our concussion poster for players in every locker room, created in conjunction with the CDC a few years ago, states: `Repetitive brain injury, when not managed promptly and properly, may cause permanent damage to your brain."'
In the concussion legal dispute, a federal judge in Philadelphia has ordered the two sides into mediation over how the complaints will be litigated - in court or in arbitration. U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody asked for a progress report by Sept. 3 and put a gag order on the lawyers involved.
Clearly, there was no silencing of the Hall of Famers, many of whom plan to be in Canton for the 50th anniversary of the football shrine.
"Legions of former players suffer short-term memory loss and other neurological issues, and many cannot even remember taking part in some of the NFL's greatest moments," they wrote to Goodell. "In the meantime, the NFL publicly touts the `benefits' it provides to former players with brain injuries, while denying these players necessary medical monitoring, long-term care, and security.
"No one wants to see another generation of players suffer this fate. As former players, we refuse to stand by quietly and watch men who unknowingly sacrificed their health and future to the NFL go without the care they desperately need.
"Mr. Goodell, we ask you, as the commissioner of the league, to provide the security and care all former players and their families deserve."