On August 8, the NFL Hall of Fame will posthumously induct Junior Seau, a former linebacker who committed suicide in 2012. But there won't be any mention of Seau's death, or of the degenerative brain disease caused by years of on-field concussions that may have contributed to it.
The New York Times reports that Seau's family won't be allowed to speak at his Hall of Fame induction on August 8, and that Seau's presence in the ceremony will be limited to a pre-recorded video with no mention of his brain injuries (a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is brought on by repeated concussions) or his suicide. It's hard to read the NFL's move as anything other than an attempt to sweep the issue of concussions under the rug.
There's a long, sad list of former NFL players who have suffered from CTE. After Seau committed suicide in 2012, his family donated his brain to the National Institute of Health, where they discovered his brain showed "definite" signs of CTE.
The NFL is rife with structural problems, but the CTE issue is among the most pressing and unresolved of these issues. Recent studies show that helmets aren't all that helpful in preventing concussions, and with the increase of awareness of the damaging effects of leaving players open for this kind of exposure, it's an issue concerned fans would like to see solved or, at the very least, acknowledged.
The Hall Of Fame, technically, is a separate organization from the NFL, but as the Times writes, the divide is an artificial one.
The Hall is an independent nonprofit organization. But the N.F.L. is its largest donor and works closely with it to stage the induction ceremony, which is televised on the league-owned N.F.L. Network. The league also organizes the Hall of Fame Game, the kick-off of the preseason, the day after the induction ceremony and moved its rookie symposium to Canton in part so every incoming player could visit the Hall.
When asked about this choice, David Baker, the executive chairman of the Hall Of Fame, told the Times that “our mission is to honor the heroes of the game and Junior is a hero of the game. We’re going to celebrate his life, not the death and other issues.”
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.