Junior Seau’s likely Hall of Fame selection could be troublesome for NFL
Who will speak for Junior Seau when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio in August?
Will his wife Gina represent the late linebacker, who died in May 2013 at the age of 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound?
Will she say this?
"When he would come home from games, he would go straight to the room, lower the blinds, the blackout blinds, and just say, 'Quiet, my head is, is burning.'"
That's what she told 60 Minutes Sports several weeks ago.
Or maybe it will be Seau's son Tyler. Will he say what he told the program?
"The NFL is taking no ownership for what they've done," he said. "There's no responsibility on their part. They're basically giving you a number and like, 'All right, there you go. We're done.'"
Or maybe the family will just stand up on the stage together and read excerpts from the lawsuit they filed in in 2013 against the NFL, perhaps something like, "The NFL knew or suspected that any rule changes that sought to recognize that link [to brain disease] and the health risk to NFL players would impose an economic cost that would significantly and adversely change the profit margins enjoyed by the NFL and its teams."
If you thought the air went out of the NFL's concussion nightmare with the tentative settlement of more than 5,000 lawsuits against the NFL and various partners by former players claiming the league hid the effects of future brain damage — a settlement that a federal judge has held up as she reviews whether or not it is fair to the damaged players — it's about to blow up again with the likely election of Seau to the shrine for the very game that his family members say drove him to suicide.
Seau is one of the finalists on the ballot before the 46-member selection committee, which will vote Saturday, the day before Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. He is considered a lock for election. The linebacker was a 12-time Pro Bowler. More impressively, he was named first-team All-Pro six times over his 20-year career with the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and the Patriots. He is the NFL's all-time leading tackler.
"Nobody would be more deserving to be in the Hall of Fame than Junior Seau," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters in December.
Nobody would be a greater nightmare for the NFL and Canton than Seau. He will be a player celebrated for his greatness on the field who, according to family members, died because of the very league will be celebrating his greatness, and are holding the league responsible for his death — and the damage to other players from concussions suffered while playing.
If he is somehow not elected — an unlikely scenario — then you will know that it was too much of a nightmare for the NFL to tolerate.
Seau will be the only player to be inducted after his family donated his brain to be cut open and examined by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, who found that Seau's brain tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to depression, dementia and memory loss.
Two weeks after those findings from NIH — which the NFL donated $30 million to for concussion research as a payoff for Congress bailing on Bountygate and brain damage hearings on Capitol Hill — the Seau family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL.
"We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior," the Seau family said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed two years ago, almost to the day. "But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations."
That's not the message the NFL or the Pro Football Hall of Fame wants to hear on induction day. But it will be hard — almost impossible to ignore — with a bust of Seau up on the stage, all nice and polished up, as if nothing ever happened.