[Edit: Click here to see Pop Warner’s official comment to slothed regarding “League of Denial”]

Frontline’s documentary “League of Denial”, long feared by the NFL, aired earlier tonight on PBS. The documentary is a companion piece of sorts to Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru’s book “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth”.

Considering the prevalence of football in our culture and the amount of revenue that the NFL, not to mention college football programs which are largely ignored in this documentary, rake in this documentary may be one of the most highly impactful documentaries ever made. It’s content is heavy and will likely change the way every fan of football watches the game on some level.

This documentary should scare the pants off of the NFL and parents of anyone who plays organized tackle football. One of the top neurologists in the country who has studied dozens of cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) says, without exception, that kids under 14 years-old should not be playing tackle football due to the risk of permanent brain trauma.

Dr. Ann McKee who is the Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, the NFL’s chosen “brain bank”, appears prominently in the documentary. McKee has found CTE in the brains of an 18 year-old high school football player, a 21 year-old college football player and in 45 of the 46 former NFL players’ brains she has examined. McKee says that knowing that young brains are even more susceptible to injury should alarm all of us.

A lifelong football fan McKee admits that she now struggles with her feelings on the sport. When asked if she had children aged 8, 10 or 12 currently would she allow them to play football. She answers, “No. Because the way football is being played currently, that I’ve seen, it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous and it could impact their long-term mental health. You only get one brain. The thing you want your kids to do most of all is succeed in life and be everything they can be and if there’s anything that may infringe on that, that may limit that, I don’t want my kids doing it.”

Both Mark and Steve worked on the documentary for Frontline. A documentary that ESPN was helping to produce until it suddenly backed out earlier this year under speculation that it was receiving significant pushback from the NFL on its cooperation.

In August the NFL reached a $765 million settlement “over concussion-related issues” with former NFL players. A lot of players though felt as if the NFL got off light compared to the people that are suffering.

Under the terms of the settlement that amount is fixed and the NFL has the next 20 years to pay it off. If any player in the future happens to develop severe neurological issues his only recourse will be to apply and hope to receive some cut of that predetermined amount.

The settlement came on the heels of some high profile suicides by ex-NFL players suffering from concussion-related issues who asked that their brains be left to science to help find out what was happening to them.

For years the NFL flat out denied that there was any correlation to concussions and long-term health issues but as the evidence continued to mount and the suicides became more mainstream, the most famous of which was the high profile suicide of Junior Seau. “League of Denial” dives into the issue and sheds light on evidence which the NFL has been covering up for years. It’s a great documentary and definitely worth a watch.

Frontline has put together a site called Concussion Watch that tracks concussions throughout the league starting in 2012. It’s a disturbing site to click through.

The bottom line is that now that this research is out, these are grown men making the decision to continue to play. If you are a parent who sees this documentary and still chooses to let your child play tackle football some people might seriously question your motives. And, if you are a parent who has a child that plays organized tackle football, you should see this documentary.

You can watch “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” for free on PBS’ website.

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.


  1. […] watching “League of Denial” last night and writing a piece on it this morning I couldn’t help but wonder what effect this […]



  2. […] ‘League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis’ aired tonight on PBS (slothed.com) […]



Speak Your Mind

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s