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What Will News Of Frank Gifford's CTE Mean For Football?


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: And we begin with an unsettling story that might make football confront a danger at the heart of the game. Kavitha Davidson of Bloomberg View joins us from New York. Welcome back, Kavitha.

KAVITHA DAVIDSON: Hi, thanks for having me.

SIMON: And Frank Gifford, the great Hall of Fame New York Giant and Monday Night Football announcer for many years, died in August. And this week, his family said that he'd been suffering from CTE, a brain disease caused by a concussion.

DAVIDSON: Yeah, you know, there's - there are a couple of ways that people are reacting to this, and one is I think a little bit predictable where people are saying, you know, this was Frank Gifford. He was a very public figure, and we saw him for many years and decades after his playing career ended being quite successful and very much in the public eye. So, you know, maybe he's not the best example of what this disease can do. But really the way that we need to be looking at it is if someone like Frank Gifford is suffering from these of symptoms as silently as he was, imagine the players who don't have the resources and the connections and the public profile as he had who are suffering from this in much more public ways.

SIMON: Case Keenum, the St. Louis Rams quarterback, was back on the field after he got his head slammed into the field. And I guess he was apparently not given concussion tests. This raises a question, is anybody noticing? Does anyone care?

DAVIDSON: Well, I think that this is actually - I'm very cynical when it comes to this, but it's a very indicative of how the NFL will try to do as little as possible by making it look like they're doing as much as possible. So the NFL has instituted this new practice of having independent, quote, unquote, "independent medical spotters," up in the press booth who can see when a player is at risk for a concussion and needs a test. But what actually happens is they're waved off when a trainer runs onto the field. What happened with Case Keenum is a trainer ran onto the field and asked him if he was OK. And basically the player said, yes, I'm OK. And the independent medical spotter, who was seeing his head hit the field and he's grabbing his head and he's clearly not in any capacity to get up on his own volition, is not given a concussion protocol at that point. This needs to be overhauled, and we need to take this much more seriously than we actually are taking it right now.

SIMON: Trina (ph) - Katrina (ph) (laughter) Kavitha, does that happen a lot? I beg your pardon.


SIMON: Kavitha, you've been outspoken about something the past few weeks. I want to get you talk about it now. Decades after Jane Gross and Christine Brennan and Robin Herman and Melissa Ludtke and Lisa Olson, and other pioneers, won equal access for women journalists to interview athletes in the locker room, is it time to ask is it right for journalists of any gender to interview athletes in their underwear?

DAVIDSON: I think that's a fair question. I think the question is, you know, if men are allowed, obviously women should be allowed too. But, you know, you have a lot of football players especially who say this is our office. Why are we being interviewed, why are we asked to do a job when we're in our underwear and when we're changing? And I think that's a fair question. You have a lot of beat reporters, or local television reporters, for example, who need to get an immediate reaction and need to get an immediate quote. But I don't understand why we don't really do this the way that the NBA does it - the WNBA does it as well - or the NHL, which is you open the locker rooms immediately after the game has ended so players don't really have the chance to change, really, and they're fully clothed. And, you know, it's an awkward situation for everybody involved when you go into a locker room. And, you know, at the one - you know, on the one hand, you have players who are saying that, you know, this is our office. This is also the reporters' office and nobody really wants to be doing these interviews when people are half naked.

SIMON: Yeah. Andrew Whitworth of the Bengals had a good quote, didn't he?

DAVIDSON: He did. You know, he basically said, you know, this is our place of work and if you went anywhere else in America this would be totally unacceptable (laughter).

SIMON: Yeah. Kavitha Davidson from Bloomberg View, thanks so much for being back with us.

DAVIDSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.