Profits over protection: NCAA inaction puts players' health on the line
The recent announcement of a new lawsuit accusing the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of being “in favor of profits and self-promotion” over the safety of its players may sound like a large claim to some, but it rings as a repetitive headline to many. The new lawsuit sounds eerily similar to an accusation filed in August that hits close to home: a lawsuit filed by the widow of the late Grand Valley State quarterback Cullen Finnerty.
Finnerty, who had a historic career not only at GVSU but set records throughout all of the NCAA, died at the age of 30 during a fishing trip as a result of a fit of paranoia mixed with a reaction to medication he was taking. Both causes were related to his multiple head injuries during his time as an athlete, the lawsuit said.
Prior to the Finnerty lawsuit, an attorney representing the late University of Texas defensive lineman Greg Ploetz filled a similar complaint in June, citing brain damage as the main cause of Ploetz’s early death. The lawsuit circles around to Ploetz’s prowess as a college athlete and accused the NCAA of inaction before settling.
Without a doubt, it’s concerning to see three individual lawsuits accuse the NCAA of nearly the same thing: widely avoiding taking proactive measures to preserve the health of its players. The Ploetz lawsuit was settled, the Finnerty lawsuit is ongoing and the newest lawsuit announced included a handful of college athletes, many of whom, but not all, played college football.
Now, once again, all eyes are on the NCAA who have historically denied being responsible for these injuries and have claimed to be ignorant of science that proves their long-term risk to athletes.
As students, we see the faces of our athletes on the screen at Lubbers Stadium or in our classes, only seats away from us. These are students who are working toward bright futures, only to have their dreams curbed by preventable injuries.
While football lends itself to rigorous contact, there are measures that can be taken — and measures have been taken by various universities and organization on their own — to protect athletes. Regardless of how this issue is approached, there is one step that precedes it: understanding that there is an issue and pledging to enact policies to solve it.
The science is out there, and it’s been cited in each of the three current lawsuits against the NCAA. There isn’t time for the NCAA to create its own research center to look into this as the Ploetz settlement required. Each day the NCAA decides to take its time or willfully play ignorant, there are more collisions, more injuries and more deaths.
Current action will not save the athletes who have already put their bodies on the line, but it will protect the athletes we’ve seen this season and in ones to come from suffering the same fate.