Jerry Jones, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Cowboys who has as much neurological expertise as a goalpost, contradicted the opinions of neurologists and the NFL’s own top safety official on Tuesday when he said it’s “absurd” to link football to the brain disease CTE.
“We don’t have that knowledge and background and scientifically, so there’s no way in the world to say you have a relationship relative to anything here,” Jones said at the league's annual owners meeting on Tuesday. “There’s no research. There’s no data,” he added.
Tell that to Boston University’s Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who has studied the brains of 94 dead NFL players and found CTE in 90 of them. "I unequivocally think there's a link between playing football and CTE," McKee said last week in front of Congress.
At the same hearing Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, agreed that there's a relationship between football and CTE. Hell, in 2014, the league submitted documents to federal court that admitted the chances an NFL players suffering chronic brain injury are "significantly higher" than the general population.
But that's not enough for Jones. If you think his bias is showing, that his position as the owner of the NFL’s most valuable franchise influences his interpretation of all this research, you’re wrong. So he says at least. “We want to continue to be safer and want to continue to support any type of research that would let us know what [the] consequences really are,” he said Tuesday.
That’s obviously bullshit. Jones is talking out of both sides of his mouth here, saying that he both values research on head injuries in football while disregarding all the research on head injuries in football.
At the root of Jones' comments is the same kind of denialism seen in the mid 90s when cigarette company executives were confronted with overwhelming data that proved smoking kills. "We have looked at the data . . . (and) it does not convince me that smoking causes death," one exec told Congress in 1994.
And what did that get him and his fellow peddlers of a deadly product? In 2015 cigarette smoking hit an all-time low. Perhaps that's not the model Jones should be replicating.