An outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump is planning a counter-protest at an upcoming Detroit Lions game against NFL players protesting police brutality.
Brian Pannebecker, an auto worker and anti-union activist from Harrison Township, is a go-to source for reporters seeking comment from Trump backers in Michigan, and he helped organize a controversial campaign rally where auto companies paid workers to attend.
Now that Trump has launched a sustained attack on mostly black NFL players for kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the 57-year-old Pannebecker is organizing an Oct. 8 protest at Ford Field, reported the Detroit Free Press.
“I’m going to organize a protest at Ford Field at the Lions next home game to encourage a fan boycott in response to the millionaire players and billionaire owners who show disrespect towards patriotic fans and our National Anthem and flag,” said Pannebecker, who is representing Michigan Freedom to Work. “It will include veterans and conservative patriots and we hope to be stationed at the 4 main entrances.”
The website reported that Pannebecker wrote a glowing 2001 review of Duke’s memoir, My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding, as an “honest, fair and well documented book on the important and sensitive issue of race.”
“(Readers) will be able to discuss the issue of race without the fear of being labeled a racist because you will have the facts and the truth on your side,” he wrote.
Pannebecker, who is a great admirer of black conservatives Ben Carson and Allen West, has unabashedly described former President Barack Obama as a “race hustler” who was “trying to benefit from racial tension and animosity.”
He also frequently complains on social media and to reporters about black athletes and politicians, including a black GOP outreach director he recently accused of “just hanging out with the fellas” by trying to appeal to black voters on Facebook.
Pannebecker explained his anger at NFL protesters on Facebook as he urged team owners to force players to participate in the National Anthem or face punishment.
“If this situation escalates any further, with more over-paid ungrateful multi-millionaires disrespecting the U.S. Flag and our national anthem, which was started to bring Americans together and unite us, not to be used to divide us, I will be organizing a protest of our own to try to encourage fans to stay away from NFL stadiums until the franchise owners ‘grow a pair’ and establish rules on every team to show respect for our flag, the anthem, and those who have fought and died defending our great country!” Pannebecker posted.
In that post, he tagged Dave Agema, who was pressured to quit the RNC after sharing a post from a white nationalist website that described black people as inclined toward criminality and unable to express themselves without profanity.
Pannebecker also tagged right-wing radio host “Trucker” Randy Bishop, a convicted felon, and local GOP activists Dave Somerville and Chris Dernay.
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford locked arms Sunday with coach Jim Caldwell in a show of support against Trump’s attacks on Colin Kaepernick and other black athletes protesting police violence.
Pannebecker admitted to writing the positive comments about Duke’s memoir — which was described by the Anti-Defamation League as a “minor league Mein Kampf” — but complained he was the victim of a “political smear” when it was reported.
“I made a comment online 15 years ago that said people should read books and judge for themselves,” he told the Huffington Post. “Why don’t you stop digging up dirt, and stop trying to conform everybody to your political correctness? Stop trying to embarrass people, and cause guilt by association.”
Duke endorsed Trump during last year’s presidential election, and the former KKK leader has thanked the president for his moral equivocation after a neo-Nazi killed a counter-protester during a Charlottesville white supremacist rally.
An argument echoed through the tidy home perched on a rise in the Windsor Hills neighborhood a half-dozen miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Shouted threats gave way to screams. Then the thud of blows.
De’von Hall stood over his mother’s blood-covered body on that April evening this year. One of the home’s residents, Brandeis Eubanks, dialed 911.
“He hit her. He stomped her out,” he told the dispatcher. “They got in a tussling match and next thing you know she was on the ground and he was stomping her out.”
Alecia Benson lay on her back, unconscious and spitting blood. Her face was swollen, lips sliced open, head battered, nose broken and cut.
“Her son is still here and I don’t want him to attack me,” Eubanks said. “If you guys get here, you can apprehend him.”
In recent months, Benson had taken in her only child. She didn’t see another way to help him.
More than five years had passed since Hall’s final day on an NFL roster. He wasn’t a star, instead one of the anonymous hopefuls who fill out practice squads and 90-man training-camp rosters. But he managed to achieve what few do and forged a career in professional football.
Inside the two-story home, Hall, 29, dressed and loaded up his backpack.
“Help her,” Eubanks told the dispatcher. “Help her. Please.”
“You’ve got to get a clean dry cloth or towel,” the dispatcher said, “and apply pressure to where the blood …”
“No, no, no,” he said. “OK. Please come. Please come now.”
As Eubanks pleaded with the dispatcher, Hall walked out of the home and down the middle of Secrest Drive.
Another man screamed and shouted in the background.
“Get off the phone and get an ambulance here!” he said.
The line went dead.
He had this killer instinct in his eyes. He loved to hit. He loved to play football. That was his passion.
— Stan Coleman
Hall had a gift. Craig Cieslik witnessed it every day. The football coach at Cleveland High in Reseda rotated Hall between six positions as a senior in 2004. He had an unusual blend of size, speed and strength. He prided himself on toughness — once refusing to exit a game after slicing his hand open — and delivering wince-inducing hits. His grandfather played football at Wiley College, an NAIA school in Texas, and the Buffalo Bills drafted an uncle from Baylor in 1976. Hall wanted to follow their path.
“He had this killer instinct in his eyes,” said Stan Coleman, one of Benson’s brothers. “He loved to hit. He loved to play football. That was his passion.”
The future seemed straightforward: Hall would pursue an NFL career, then coach football. After all, he already acted like a coach on the field. Benson once told Cieslik to let her know if her son ever stepped out of line. The coach didn’t need to because Hall was the sort of rule-follower who answered questions “Yes, sir” or “No, sir” and meant it.
When Jeff Copp, then safeties coach at Utah State, recruited Hall in 2005, he asked the youngster whom he would lean on to decide where to play. Hall didn’t hesitate: his mother. Benson’s daughter died of sudden infant death syndrome when Hall was a toddler. It cemented the tight-knit relationship between the mother and son.
“She was his rock,” Copp said.
At Utah State, Hall started the season opener at linebacker as a true freshman. He built a reputation as a quick learner and one of the team’s most punishing tacklers. Off the field he kept to himself, usually holed up in his room playing Madden NFL video games or talking to his mother on the phone. Gaining his trust wasn’t easy, but when you did, he revealed a quick wit and an obsession with maintaining a clean-cut appearance to go along with a burgeoning confidence in his ability to play in the NFL.
“He was a freak when it came to what he could do on the field with how strong he was and how fast he was,” said James Brindley, a former Utah State defensive back.
Entering Hall’s senior year in 2008, Copp noticed he took longer to focus. Hall’s mind wandered. He eventually stopped going to class to train for the NFL draft.
One NFL team’s scouting report hinted at the concerns, saying his physical ability and understanding of the game “does not register” on the field.
When members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers filed into darkened meeting rooms after practice, they flipped on lights and closed doors. They often discovered Hall standing behind a door, staring at the wall without a word. No one knew what to make of it.
Like so many other players clinging to the fringe of the NFL, Hall’s name made regular appearances in the league’s transaction reports. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in April 2009. He was late to meetings and regarded as immature. After being cut five months later, he joined the Indianapolis Colts, had the team’s horseshoe logo tattooed on his chest and played four regular-season games before being waived the day after Christmas. The Buccaneers picked him up two days later, intrigued by his athleticism.
From the first day, Hall’s odd behavior left teammates uneasy, sometimes afraid. He stood by himself on the practice field. Teammates tried to get him to join them for movies or dinner. He declined.
When Joshua Taylor, one of his Utah State roommates, asked what the NFL was like, Hall replied that all he did was smoke weed, practice, then smoke more weed.
Hall repeatedly told a strange story about a car accident in Tampa where he hit his head and had to be put in a straitjacket, then injected with an unknown substance to calm down. Friends pressed for more details. He couldn’t provide them.
The Buccaneers released Hall in August 2010 a few days before the team’s rookies were scheduled to perform their annual skits. Most of them poked fun at Hall being in places where he wasn’t expected. The team’s uneasiness had become a running joke. Executives worried about Hall’s reaction to the skits if he remained on the roster.
On Facebook, Hall mentioned injuring his hamstring during training camp with the Buccaneers. But he told Taylor that coaches wouldn’t give him an opportunity to play because they believed he was unbalanced.
Around 5 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2010, 911 operators in Luna County, N.M., received seven calls reporting a reckless driver on westbound Interstate 10.
The green Pontiac Grand Am, driven by Hall on his way home from Florida, sped to 60 mph, then slowed to 35 mph. He refused to let other cars pass.
The eighth 911 call was from a woman who said the car tried to run her off the road. A tractor-trailer helped box in Hall until two Luna County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived. Wearing a black hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, Hall denied any wrongdoing. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor with probation and fines.
Hall became difficult for his Temecula-based agent, Derrick Fox, to reach. If they connected, Hall answered “yes” or “no” to questions without elaboration.
After Hall’s grandfather, Leslie Benson, died in June 2011, Hall waved his arms in the air at the funeral. He yelled as if he was riding a roller coaster.
The Carolina Panthers signed Hall a few weeks later. He didn’t last long. A prominent Panthers player and team chaplain called Fox, concerned about his client’s unusual behavior and soiled clothes. The team cut ties.
Hall landed auditions with two Canadian Football League teams. Neither worked out.
During a CFL combine in Santa Monica, Hall arrived in a wrinkled gray suit, full beard and tousled hair. Other players wore workout clothes. He fished a resume out of his backpack. Extra clothes flew everywhere. Hall eventually changed out of the suit and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 or 4.9 seconds, almost a half-second slower than his usual time in college.
His words became garbled. He wore headphones to drown out the voices in his head. He refused to hug Tony Benson, a close uncle. He laughed for no reason. He shouted violent song lyrics. Each Facebook post sounded stranger than the one before.
“religion single seat single engine F-16 fighting falcon fighter jet.”
“Natural ability has allowed…. Natures ability has caused doubt I am thankful for my choice.”
“I’m not scared of washer machines. I’m nice. I don’t agree with communism. Im nice.”
If he caught the dog, you didn’t know if he was going to pet it or kill it. I wouldn’t want to be in a room one-on-one with him.
— Caleb Taylor
One day a Utah State teammate, Daryl Fields, drove Hall to an apartment in Salt Lake City where Taylor was visiting his twin brother, Caleb. Before arriving, Fields warned the brothers on the phone that this wasn’t the same Hall they knew in college. He wore old Utah State sweats. His eyes were bloodshot and vacant. His teeth weren’t brushed. He smelled bad. He hadn’t shaved or cut his hair recently. And he didn’t seem to recognize his friends.
Caleb Taylor asked how Hall was doing. He sputtered about “chilling busting caps.”
Hall fixated on Joshua Taylor’s black chihuahua named Shadow. No one could distract Hall. He dived on the carpet and tried to catch the dog. He faced the animal on all fours, as if he was going to attack it. The brothers hustled the dog to another room.
“If he caught the dog, you didn’t know if he was going to pet it or kill it,” Caleb Taylor said. “I wouldn’t want to be in a room one-on-one with him. He showed a lot of signs of aggression.”
Each time Hall joined the brothers, something strange happened. Like the night they watched a Lakers game on television and Hall, for no apparent reason, sprinted back and forth across the room while staring at the ceiling.
The last time the Taylor brothers spoke to Hall on the phone, he let them know he was on the way to Caleb Taylor’s apartment in Salt Lake City.
“I’m walking from California to Utah,” Hall said.
He told the brothers he was in Barstow. He plugged in the route on his iPhone and estimated he’d reach them in a couple of weeks. He didn’t find this unusual. After staying in L.A. with his father, Cary Hall, he wanted to become a professional boxer.
Alecia Benson told family members her son would call when he got tired. She eventually drove to Barstow and brought him back.
Hall became a fixture in and around Martin Luther King Jr. Park, a mile and a half west of the Coliseum. His grandfather’s old duplex was on the other side of the park.
Hall’s mother tried to convince him to move into a furnished apartment. He refused. Instead, he paced up and down Western Avenue next to the park. He slept there. He smoked discarded cigarette butts. He stood on bleachers surrounding the baseball field. He looked dazed, but didn’t bother anyone. Sometimes he did football drills. He seemed to exist in a world of his own.
“That’s where he felt most safe,” Coleman said.
One day Hall darted back and forth across Western Avenue. He appeared to be playing chicken with cars. A bus clipped him. Benson found her son at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood. He avoided serious injury.
Before finally losing touch with Hall, Copp and Benson talked about how to get him help. But he didn’t think he had a problem. The player Copp remembered as one of the sweetest kids he had ever coached had become a stranger who barely recalled playing for Utah State.
When Utah State played USC at the Coliseum in September 2013, Hall approached a group of teammates in front of the stadium. He dragged a black garbage bag. When he tried to speak, only gibberish came out. He jogged away after about 30 seconds.
Sometimes Marquis Butler saw his former Utah State teammate pushing a shopping cart along the street. Each time Butler called his name, Hall disappeared into the park.
Each morning, Eric Griffin, director at the adjacent Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, asked Hall how he was doing. It took almost a year before he responded: “Good day. How are you?” Until recently, Griffin knew nothing about Hall’s NFL career.
Trecia Summerville, an assistant at the center, noticed a middle-aged woman speaking to Hall on the street. She asked the woman if Hall was bothering her.
“This is my son,” Benson said.
We’re a proud family and we take on our responsibilities, period. She didn’t want anyone else to be burdened with what he was going through.
— Tony Benson
Before the final encounter between the mother and son in the home on Secrest Drive, Benson told Eubanks to leave the room and not to get involved. She didn’t want Hall to lash out at another person. Her son was her concern.
“We’re a proud family and we take on our responsibilities, period,” Tony Benson said. “She didn’t want anyone else to be burdened with what he was going through. … She took it all on herself, even that night.”
Alecia Benson, 48, worked in the office of a local doctor. She laughed easily and had the gift to make whoever she talked to feel special. She became a confidant for a sprawling collection of twentysomething nieces and nephews, always available to listen or offer advice.
Alecia Benson argued with Hall in the days leading up to the final confrontation. Though he was about 30 pounds lighter than his playing weight of 215 pounds, he remained an intimidating figure. The L.A. Sheriff’s Department responded to multiple calls for service at the address in past years for domestic disturbances. Hall wasn’t arrested. The department refused to provide further details.
This time, the mother confronted him about hygiene. Each time he entered the home, it reeked of someone who had abandoned showering.
As Benson lay unconscious, deputies caught Hall near the home shortly after the 911 call at 10:44 p.m. Family members said deputies speeding to the scene almost hit Hall in the middle of Secrest Drive and they used a Taser to subdue him.
Benson died almost four days later at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on April 28. Her face was so swollen and bruised as to be almost unrecognizable.
The scrawl of a doctor’s handwriting on a sheet attached to the autopsy report reduced the final days of her life to a few words: “facial and traumatic brain injury w/ facial fracture and brain contusion with severe brain edema.”
Another form added eight words.
“Her son is the suspect in this homicide.”
The NFL, in my opinion, should’ve done a better job in making sure they took care of this kid.
— Tony Benson
Some family members don’t think Hall understands his mother is dead. He pleaded not guilty to murder and is jailed at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown L.A. on $1-million bail. Cary Hall and Coleman tried to visit. De’von Hall refused.
In recent years, Utah State teammates felt Hall would snap. They figured a random person would be the victim. But his mother? He didn’t love anyone more. The friends are scared by the thought of what might happen next.
“If he’s in jail with the regular population, he’s going to end up getting killed or killing someone else,” said Dionte Holloway, who played at Utah State with Hall. “De’von mentally is gone. That’s not the De’von I know, that’s not the De’von I went to school with, that’s not my friend, that’s somebody who was out of their mind.”
They search for answers. Family members believe Hall suffered a head injury with the Colts in 2009 that changed his personality. A team spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“The NFL, in my opinion, should’ve done a better job in making sure they took care of this kid,” Tony Benson said.
At Utah State, former defensive coordinator Mark Johnson, Copp and several teammates didn’t recall Hall sustaining a concussion. But one of the teammates, Gregg Clark, cautioned that “a lot of things go under the table” when head injuries are involved.
A separate theory circulated among some teammates had Hall attending a party in Miami while he played for the Buccaneers and smoking weed laced with cocaine, heroin or another hard drug. They believe the episode triggered an addiction.
No evidence has been made public to support any of these theories or further explain his behavior.
In a brief court hearing June 28, Hall’s public defender, Ashley Morgan Price, told L.A. County Superior Court Judge Yvette Verastegui that she doesn’t believe her client is competent. The judge suspended criminal proceedings and ordered a mental evaluation.
Hall and Price didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“In the final analysis, it’s about De’von, but, in reality, it’s about Alecia and what she did for her family,” Tony Benson said. “She’s an angel and we lost her.”
That’s not the only loss. Coaches, teammates, family members, friends all speak about Hall as if he’s dead.
That’s not my nephew. He’s not a regular person. This was someone who possessed De’von’s body. His mother didn’t have a chance.
Five National Football League players began a post-Super Bowl visit to Israel on Tuesday, following a storm of criticism by some of the other invited athletes who pulled out after expressing their displeasure with the stated goals of the visit sponsored by the Israeli government.
The five football players — down from 11 — currently in Israel are Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals, the Oakland Raiders’ Dan Williams, Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints, Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans, and Philadelphia Eagles player Mychal Kendricks.
All five were present at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital on Tuesday, one of the planned stops on the seven-day trip.
The trip’s organizers, including Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Tourism and America’s Voices in Israel (a branch of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, a non-partisan group), did not confirm or deny which players were in Israel.
The planned trip also includes visits to major sites in Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Haifa, as well as Christian sites in the Galilee. The players will also head to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem and meet with representatives of the Black Hebrews in Dimona.
Steve Leibowitz, president and founder of the American Football League in Israel, said the group would probably have a “meet-and-greet” at Jerusalem’s Kraft Stadium — the outdoor football field created by New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft — on Saturday night, February 18.
Team owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP)
The original 11-member crew of athletes included players Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett from the Seattle Seahawks, Bennett’s younger brother and New England Patriots player Martellus Bennett, Miami Dolphins’ Kenny Stills, San Francisco 49ers player Carlos Hyde and Denver Broncos player Justin Forsett. ESPN football commentator and former NFL linebacker Kirk Morrison was also set to join.
The visiting players have been mostly silent on social media since their arrival in Israel Monday night, with the exception of Philadelphia Eagles’ Mychal Kendricks, who posted an Instagram video on Tuesday in a Tel Aviv eatery, singing along to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s get it on” and asking an Israeli waitress to say hello to the camera “in your language.”
The withdrawals from the trip, which garnered international headlines, were led by Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who pulled out saying he felt he was being “used” by the Israeli government after reading comments about the trip made by Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in a press release published by the Tourism Ministry on February 5, Super Bowl Sunday, and reported by The Times of Israel.
The Brothers Bennett, NFL players Michael Bennett (left) and Martellus Bennett, captured during an ESPN interview, were supposed to visit Israel on a seven-day trip; Michael Bennett has now become an outspoken opponent of the purpose of the trip (YouTube screen grab)
Both ministers suggested the trip’s purpose was to “show a balanced picture of Israel” in the fight against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as Erdan was quoted as saying, so that the athletes could become “ambassadors of good will for Israel,” said Levin.
Registering his refusal to participate, Bennett first tweeted a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., saying “Im not going to Israel.” He then followed it with a long letter late Friday in which he talked about his discomfort with being considered an ambassador for Israel, and proposing that when he does visit Israel, he will go to the West Bank and Gaza as well.
Bennett’s public exit was followed by that of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills and then reportedly by his younger brother, Martellus Bennett, of the New England Patriots. Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett said he would nix the trip as well, and then later indicated that he and his wife had decided against it some weeks ago, because of the upcoming birth of his child.
There were also pressures on the football players from the BDS Movement, with an open letter published in The Nation and signed pro-Palestinian groups, activists and high-profile supporters including Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and Alice Walker, who urged the players not to go.
The Israel tour arranged for a group of NFL players will go ahead as planned starting from Monday despite the publicized pull-outs of several of its original participants.
Three of the NFL players who were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday as part of a campaign to showcase the country’s “true face” to the world pulled out of the trip, explaining that they do not want to be “used” by the Israeli government.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett led the boycott, being joined by brother Martellus, who won the Super Bowl with New England last week, and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills.
Nevertheless, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, which arranged the trip in cooperation with the Tourism Ministry, is going ahead with the tour, which includes visits to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Christian sites.
Bennett’s decision came on the heels of an open letter by renowned musicians, artists and social justice advocates released Thursday asking the NFL players “to consider withdrawing from the delegation given Israel’s track record of human rights abuses.”
Bennett wrote the following via Twitter and Instagram on Friday night: “I was excited to see this remarkable and historic part of the world with my own eyes. I was not aware until reading this article about the trip in the Times of Israel that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an ‘influencer and opinion-former’ who would then be ‘an ambassador of good will.’ I will not be used in such a manner. When I do go to Israel – and I do plan to go – it will be to see not only Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives.”
Bennett further cited boxing legend Muhammad Ali and that Ali “stood strongly with the Palestinian people” and wrote “I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel” and that he was making the decision “to be in accord with my own values and my own conscience.”
The letter to NFL players Thursday urged them “to consider the political ramifications of attending the trip, drawing connections between the struggles faced by Black and Brown communities in the US, and Palestinian, Eritrean and Sudanese communities in Israel and the Palestinian territories.”
The letter was signed by entertainer and activists Harry Belafonte, activist Angela Davis, actor Danny Glover and former sprinter John Carlos, among others, and co-signed by organizations that included the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
Other players listed as part of the delegation are Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Michael Kendricks, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell, San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Dan Williams, Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett and former linebacker Kirk Morrison.
The trip is also scheduled to include a meet-and-greet event on February 18th in Jerusalem (NOT an exhibition game, as had initially been reported) featuring the NFL delegation and players from the American Football in Israel federation and the Kraft Family Israel Football League.
MONDAY, April 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Two out of five retired National Football League players may suffer from traumatic brain injuries, a small study suggests.
Brain scans of 40 former NFL players, age 36 on average, found that nearly 43 percent had significantly more damage to the brain’s white matter than healthy adults the same age, researchers said.
Also, testing showed about half had significant problems following through on goals, and more than two out of five had learning, memory or attention problems.
“This is another piece of the puzzle that playing football places people at risk for traumatic brain injury that may cause problems later in life,” said lead researcher Dr. Francis Conidi, from the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology, in Port St. Lucie.
Traumatic brain injury may be a precursor to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease of the brain, Conidi said. “It’s important to prevent traumatic brain injury, because there is nothing you can do when they reach CTE,” he said.
Conidi added that one-third of people with traumatic brain injuries go on to develop Alzheimer’s, CTE or other neurodegenerative diseases.
The NFL, which for years disputed the notion that head injuries led to brain damage, said in a statement that it values studies of this kind.
“It is clear there are long-term health risks associated with sustaining head injuries,” said an NFL spokesman. “Studies of this nature are important to further advancing the science and better understanding these risks.”
One way to reduce the danger of traumatic brain injury in football is to limit hitting in practice, Conidi said, “because the damage is most likely cumulative.”
“You can’t take the hitting completely away without compromising the game,” Conidi said. However, “there is an accepted risk by the athlete,” he added. “As long as we can present the information that you may have problems later in life, they can make an informed decision.”
Another expert welcomed the report.
“Overall, this is a significant study highlighting the potential damage that can occur over time, especially in professional sports,” said Dr. Mohan Kottapally, an assistant professor of clinical neurology and neurocritical care at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
However, Kottapally said the study findings don’t necessarily establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the MRI findings and observable thinking problems. More information is needed for that, he said.
“The difficulty we face in treating patients with this disease is in determining the connection between imaging findings of dysfunction with clinical findings of dysfunction,” he said.
The former athletes in the study ranged in age from 27 to 56. They played in the NFL for an average of seven years and reported an average of eight concussions, Conidi said.
In addition, 12 men reported several sub-concussive hits — hard blows that weren’t diagnosed as a concussion, he said.
When the researchers used special MRIs and examined the brain’s white matter, which connects brain regions, they found 17 players had evidence of traumatic brain injury, Conidi said.
Also, 30 percent had disruption of the nerve cells that allow brain cells to send messages to each other, he said.
It appeared those who played the longest were most likely to have signs of traumatic brain injury.
The number of concussions suffered, however, was not related to signs of traumatic brain injury, Conidi said.
The explanation must lie somewhere else, Conidi said. One possible cause is that hits during play — not necessarily head hits — cause strain deep within the brain’s white matter, which result in lasting damage, he said.
This may be why offensive and defensive linemen were most likely to show signs of traumatic brain injury, he said. “It’s not concussion, it’s the banging that appears to be causing the problems here,” he added.
“We have possibly found a link to CTE or an alternative explanation for some of the neurological problems people are finding in retired football players,” he said.
The study findings were scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada. The research should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Research conducted on almost 100 deceased NFL players revealed that over 95 percent of them tested positive for the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
In a study published by Frontline on Friday, a total of 87 out of 91 players were found to have the disease. The CTE research was carried out by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University.
The chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System, Dr. Ann McKee, told Frontline that CTE is a “very real disease.”
“People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” McKee said. “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”
Although research had suggested that concussions were one of the likely causes of CTE, new evidence suggests that “minor head trauma that occurs regularly in football may pose” a greater risk than the occasional violent collision.
The study noted that 40 percent of the positive tests were done on offensive or defensive linemen, who are subject to violent collisions on almost every play in a football game.
In a statement, the NFL said that it continues to strive to make game safer.
“We are dedicated to making football safer and continue to take steps to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, and expanded medical resources,” the league said. “We continue to make significant investments in independent research through our gifts to Boston University, the [National Institutes of Health] and other efforts to accelerate the science and understanding of these issues.”
In 2010, the league donated $1 million to the same brain bank that helped carry out the research published by Frontline.
Although the high number of CTE cases should be alarming for the NFL, researchers did note that the research was slightly skewered because many of the brains donated to the lab came from people who already believed they had the disease.
To put that in perspective, imagine if this study had been done with only former NFL kickers. CTE likely would’ve been found in far fewer brains, but that wouldn’t mean it’s not prevalent.
Even if the study’s 95 percent number is a little high, it’s still an alarming issue for the NFL — and you can count former NFL tight end Tom Crabtree among those who are alarmed.
Three former players who committed suicide in the past four years — Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling and Junior Seau — were all found to have CTE.
The New York Jets lost in the AFC Championship in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010. The quarterback at the helm? Mark Sanchez. Sure, he didn’t get much of the credit for the team’s success, but that’s mainly because he wasn’t asked to lead the offense the way most NFL quarterbacks are. Still, leading your team to two-straight conference championships in your first two seasons is quite the accomplishment.
One former teammate, however, who was unimpressed with Sanchez’s play is Darrelle Revis. Revis was a big reason for the Jets’ success in both seasons, but he thinks just the opposite of his former quarterback Sanchez.
“We almost made it [in 2009 and ’10], and we didn’t have a quarterback,” Revis said in a cover story for Sports Illustrated. “Mark was solid. He wasn’t elite.”
Ouch. Revis held back nothing with that comment, even if he did try to save himself by saying Mark was “solid.” Sorry, Darrelle. There’s no going back now. I’m not disagreeing that the Jets didn’t have a quarterback, but I also didn’t play with Sanchez for four seasons.
While wide receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas have created the most franchise tag drama,Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston is the player who cashed in first.
Houston, who had a league-high 22 sacks last season, signed a six-year deal worth $101 million Wednesday, hours before the deadline for franchise players to reach a long-term deal, a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.
Houston’s deal, which includes $52.5 million in guarantees, makes him the NFL’s second-highest paid defensive player behind Miami Dolphins defensive tackleNdamukong Suh and the best-compensated linebacker in league history. It surpasses the $100 million deal signed by Houston Texans defensive end and reigning defensive player of the year J.J. Watt last year.
“He’s one of the top players in the National Football League and a premier pass rusher,” general manager John Dorsey said in a statement. “As we’ve said from the beginning, Justin the football player, and the person, is someone we wanted to be a part of our organization. We are very happy that he will remain a member of the Chiefs.”
The Chiefs have now locked up half of their dominant pass rushing duo and ensured that Houston, who skipped offseason workouts, will join fellow outside linebackerTamba Hali and the rest of the team at training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., later this month.
Houston has 48½ career sacks since the Chiefs drafted him in the third round out of the University of Georgia in 2011. He arrived in the NFL with less fanfare than other top pass rushers in his class — including Watt, the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller and San Francisco 49ers’ Aldon Smith — yet now he makes more money than all of them.
It is time to explore a topic that I rarely ever speak about but this is somewhat important for I like to drift away from the mundane topics of Jewish supremacy and the evils of Freemasonry. Today, I wish to discuss a life built upon fantasy….fantasy football that is. In truth, I didn’t much know or cared about fantasy football until around August of 2010 as I used it to stay relevant in topics about the NFL and the NFL Draft and college football. That all changed in 2013 when I discovered the joys of fantasy football and how well i could thrive in such an environment for I understood matchups, how to play the hot hand, and my understanding of NFL offenses. I decided in the summer of 2014 to actually enter a fantasy football league on Yahoo sports just to see how well I could handle the actual challenges of running my own fantasy football team. I assembled a pretty horrible team (looking back in hindsight) because I selected Montee Ball as my first round pick and my hand picked quarterback, Matthew Stafford, didn’t even last with me all throughout the season. I ended up releasing Ball once he became too injured to play and realized quite quickly that Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger were better quarterbacks playing in a run based offense and a pass first offense respectively. I did hit on some good players like my kicker, defense/special teams, and a Green Bay Packer wideout, Randal Cobb.
As the season progressed, I found myself completely obsessed with scouting the waiver wire pickups, trying to gain an advantage against my next opponent. I would wake up every Tuesday morning and then head off to work and would always be on my phone reading up on player injuries, who was on a hot streak, and which players to avoid and which players to pickup. I ended up having a 5-4 record and finishing in 5th place; till this day, I cannot believe that Russel Wilson was able to account for 40 fantasy points. It was that occasion that destroyed my ability to qualify for the fantasy football playoffs, but I believe that this year might be different. Next week, I will participate in my fantasy football draft on Yahoo Sports and will try and participate in the 2015 NFL Fantasy Football Leagues. All of this is dependent on if I am alive in the next few weeks due to poor health but maybe, just maybe, this is something to live for in the short term as a grasp of hope in a hopeless world.