NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — NFL spokesman Greg Aiello doesn’t give much credence to a magazine feature on Roger Goodell that claims the commissioner is petrified a player will die on the field.
“I don’t know anyone who’s ever heard him say that,” Aiello told the New York Daily News. “I’ve worked closely with him for 24 years and have never heard him say such a thing. Beware of anonymous sources.”
In his story, ESPN The Magazine writer Don Van Natta Jr. said the scenario is one of Goodell’s “greatest fears.”
“Within the past year, Goodell has told friends privately that he believes if the game’s hard-knocks culture doesn’t change, it could happen again,” Van Natta Jr. wrote.
Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes died of a heart attack in a 1971 game.
“He’s terrified of it,” said a Hall of Famer close to Goodell, according to Van Natta Jr. “It wouldn’t just be a tragedy. It would be awfully bad for business.”
The piece also contained quotes from several notables in the football world, including Giants co-owner John Mara, who said Goodell wants player safety to be “part of his legacy as a commissioner.”
Many former players have filed lawsuits against the league over concussions and brain damage. Hall of Famer Harry Carson said in October that he never would have played had he known the effects of concussions, and Tiki Barber said in January that he fears for his health after years of playing football.
President Barack Obama sparked a debate before the Super Bowl when he said, “I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.”
Goodell has been tough on hard hits and quick to dole out hefty fines for dangerous play. The safety-first commissioner also has said he’d consider a radical proposal to eliminate kickoffs.
If Goodell isn’t terrified, well, should he be? Be heard in the comments…