Former University of Southern California tailback Anthony Davis in 1973. (David F. Smith / AP)


Robert Scheer: Hello, there, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence; hopefully, the intelligence will come from my guests in this podcast. One of them is a very famous USC football player, and we are doing this at the new Annenberg facility at USC. And we have Jeremy Rosenberg, who was an assistant dean here for the last five years in the Annenberg School. And the two of you have written a book about Anthony Davis’s experience, but it’s not really an on-the-field book; it’s a book about the consequences of playing football, particularly what happens to your brain. The book is called Kick Off Concussion. It has an introduction by a doctor that did pioneering research in this book, which I’m sure you’ll talk about, Dr. Daniel Amen from Orange County. The subtitle is, How the Notre Dame Killer Recovered His Brain. So you were this great hero in the field, and the reason I love talking to you and having you come in and speak to our students here is it gives them both sides of this sport. You’re a big fan of it; you’ve felt it added a lot to your life; you went on to play professional ball and so forth; you got to see a lot of the world. On the other hand, you’re living proof of the damage that football as a rough sport can do. So why don’t you just tell me what you try to say in this book and what it’s all about?

Anthony Davis: Well, first of all, starting off about my problems with the concussions, it started with a guy, a gentleman by the name of Don Bakos, who went here as a pharmaceutical major, who became the head pharmacist at Cedars Sinai. His hobby was taking photos of athletes, and I happened to be his favorite athlete. That’s how I met [him]. He had a whole library full of photos of me that I’d never seen. And so we started conversing about injuries and how I got out of the game so early, and he knew I had some issues with my weight. He said, ‘But, ah, have you ever had your brain scanned?’ I said, no, I don’t need it. He says, ‘Well, you’ve been hit in the head several times, and I know you’ve had a couple of concussions. You might have had more.’ And he said, ‘Have you ever heard of a gentleman by the name of Dr. Daniel Amen?’ I says, no, not at all. So I had some episodes with memory, and right after I talked about it, walking out of my house, forgetting that I’d locked the door, did I lock it, going back and forth. And then the thing that turned me toward Dr. Amen was that incident on the 405 freeway where I blanked out. I said, I need to get ahold of Don. So he arranged it, and that’s how I realized that I had a problem. Then realizing, also, some of my colleagues past and present had it even worse, after meeting Dr. Amen.

RS: What year was that when you blanked out on the 405?

AD: That was two thousand, ah, 2007.

RS: So while we’re talking here, students in my class are watching a very good FRONTLINE PBS documentary, ‘League of Denial.’ And it’s all about how the National Football League basically denied that there was a problem here. And then most recently, The New York Times had an investigative piece in March of 2016 showing how there’d been a deliberate cover-up of the significance of these injuries. And they made the comparison with the tobacco industry, [which] concealed the bad effects of smoking and had phony science and so forth. In the case of the National Football League, when they went through the studies, it turns out they were relying on professional football teams to give them the data; these teams distorted the data, they left out a hundred, ten percent of the cases of people that had serious injury. And you know, basically, it’s a cover-up. And so, but at the time when you discovered this, there wasn’t much talk about concussion. Kids were still being encouraged to play football at an early age, and the negative consequences were really played down. Why? Because football, first of all, on a college level, is a way of these colleges finding meaning in their existence as well as financial support; and then on the professional level, it’s America’s sport in terms of the audience it commands, the money that’s generated. So what was the mood when you first discovered you had a problem from your football career? What was the reaction of people? Did they believe it, did they think it was real?

AD: Well, first of all, myself, when I met Amen, and talking to him, I [thought], this is hokey-pokey. This is voodoo medicine. I mean, even though I’d had a problem, I said you know something, I’m not going to believe what this guy is talking about. And so he says, ‘Well, Anthony, first, if you want to hear the results of your scan,’ he says, ‘how many concussions do you think you had?’ I said, I think I’ve had maybe two. He said, ‘No, you had three. So if you had three, you probably had more.’ And he says, ‘You remember any incidents?’ I said I remembered one time getting knocked out, don’t remember part of the game. So I took a trip to [California] when he put me on the supplement program. And I had been on the program for about a month; I got there, but I left my supplements down in Southern California. Well, I was feeling better, but I found the effects of not taking it for two or three days, and I realized that I had a problem. And I went and contacted him, and he said ‘Well, we diagnosed you; you needed to stay on the product.’ And I, from that day on, I never, I do not leave unless I have my supplements. That’s daily; I take it religiously. So from that point, Dr. Amen and his staff said, ‘You know something, I’d like to do an NFL study.’ So what I did, arranged with him, was to go meet with the Southern California sector of the Retired [Players] Association here in Southern California. And he met with about fifty of us, and that’s when we launched the program. While we were doing the book, Jeremy and I, it was like 115 guys who got scanned. He calls me the father of his brain study, because I was the first guy. And so that’s what escalated everything, and then also, you know, Dr. Bennet Omalu, in combination with him, that raised, escalated the awareness of the concussion situation. And then the mothers started to get involved: should my kid play this game? And I became a major advocate of the fact that the more trauma you had, and once you put a helmet on your head the trauma starts; it doesn’t go away. And you got to remember, when a kid is 12 years old putting a helmet on his head, the trauma begins. So you realize that some guys who played Pop Warner football, which is maybe three years; then you got high school, four years; that’s seven. Then you got college, that’s four more; you know, that’s eleven. Then some guys play [that] which I call the really serious, crucial yeaRS: eight, nine, ten years of professional football. Now, Dr. Amen says, ‘You only, you didn’t play long in football because other injuries made you retire’ – bad back, broke my leg, hurt my shoulder. He said, it was very fortunate you got out of the game when you did, because of your concussions. Visualize some guys playing ten to 15 years. In the case of Junior Seau, he played 20 years of professional football. Prior of all other years he played—Pop Warner, high school. You can’t play twenty years of professional football without any consequences.

RS: Yeah, I remember a very sad evening when you came in to speak in my class, and we showed a movie about concussion, and a family member of Junior Seau’s family was there. And you know, discussed how painful that whole experience was, and what it did to her father.

AD: Well, I was very upset about that; when I saw her, it was very emotional for me. I feel a little guilty, because when he had his first episode, I needed to get on the phone and call Junior, and I didn’t do it; get up here, and I didn’t do it; knowing him so many years when he was ‘SC, USC here, in the pros. And it still bothers me to this day that if, could I have made that call, and it’d have got here?

RS: You were a three-letter athlete, right?

AD: No, I was two. Baseball and football.

RS: –two, baseball and football—oh, I thought you played a little basketball.

AD: Oh no, no, I wasn’t that good.

Jeremy Rosenberg: That’s a different Anthony Davis. Who had a concussion also, by the way.

AD: But I played on five national championship teams here, three in baseball, two in football, and all-American in both.

RS: You had a choice. You actually might have been a better baseball player than you were a football player, no? I’m not taking anything away from your football prowess, but you were, you know, headed for a good, major career, right?

AD: Well, first of all, if I’d do it over, it’s no football. I was the number one draft choice out of high school, Baltimore Orioles.

RS: In baseball, yeah.

AD: Most people thought that was my career. And to this day, if you talk to people who know anything about my career, ‘He’s a better baseball player.’ I think about that all the time. And even my late baseball coach, Rod Dedeaux’s, his favorite words, ‘Tiger, you got to play baseball. What you’re doing on the football field is all right, but baseball is your game.’RS: Yeah, that’s what people have said about you who have looked at your life. So what got you to go into football, the glamour?

AD: No, it wasn’t glamour so much; it was financial, it was family issues. And the money was right away; baseball, I might have gone to minors for a while. But according to the guy who drafted me, said—and Jeremy was there interviewing him—he says I’m in the big leagues in no time. But that was sort of sad to hear, too, because I thought I was going at least two or three years in the minor leagues. He says no, we projected you to be in the big leagues at nineteen.

RS: When you say the money, though, does that mean they gave you a scholarship at USC, or—?

AD: Well, I had a scholarship to play two sports.

JR: A.D., tell how much money you got for the World Football League deal that you took instead of a minor league baseball salary that would have put you in, like, Bluefield, West Virginia.

AD: Well, it was—back in the day, I signed a five-year, $1.8 million contract, which is a lot of money in those years. So how is a kid going to turn that down from the humble beginnings he’s come from? So I’m thinking about all the different things that I struggled through; my mother, who to this day I still look out for and take care of. So that was one of the major factors of why I did what I did.

RS: Well, tell me about the humble beginnings, because you know, I’ve been watching film clips of you, and there’s no mention on ESPN or on USC’s football, of any of your background or what you did before you got here. All we see is this guy running around the field like, you know, getting in harm’s way.

AD: Well, I don’t know if they’re in the business of really talking about my childhood, but maybe that can change a little bit if I’m that important to the program and the school overall. I don’t know why, but it made me the athlete and the person that I am, my background.

RS: Well, tell us about it.

AD: I really didn’t have a father influence. My father was a devout alcoholic, which I call him—I mean, I can say it—I call him a sociopathic ignoramus. Not the fact that he was that, but he portrayed himself that way. And plus he had an alcohol problem. And so I really didn’t have any proper guidance. When I should have been getting nurtured about the world I was stepping into—especially in the days, I grew up in the Jim Crow era anyway, and didn’t really know what to face in the public eye. But behind doors, I was mistreated along with my other siblings. And I don’t know how my mother kept us together. My mother always wanted to put us in a different environment so we could flourish in different areas, because she realized we had some talent in our family; my brother’s an attorney, done real well, went to your alma mater, Cal. My daughter went to Cal, and my sister went here, USC. So she knew, but she had to battle his alcoholism, his abusiveness, to keep everything together. So that’s one of the reasons I drove and did [what I did]. Now, if I’d have been nurtured, it might have been a different story.

RS: But you know, you talk about the Jim Crow days, and here we are in Los Angeles, and you think, well, it wasn’t the Deep South. But I remember in class, you once told the students that you would stand on one building over there that you guys called the Ghetto Steps—

AD: [Laughs]

JR: VKC [VonKleinSmid Center]!

RS: And—huh?

AD: VKC, the steps. It was pretty much where the minorities hung out, the blacks. Because back in the day, when I was here, the majority of the blacks that went here were on the football team or athletic team, either basketball track or football. Majority of us was football. But it didn’t mean it isolated the rest, because whites and everyone else came and joined us, too. But you know, when you had a break between class, we all went to the ghetto steps.

RS: Well, I remember doing a year of graduate work at Syracuse University; that was 1958, where Jim Brown had been, and Ernie Davis and others. And there on Marshall Street, you know, right down that main drag, you’d go in there and the black students were sitting at one corner and one table—this is in the north, in Syracuse. But you know, yet, ‘SC was a way out, right? ‘SC was—

AD: You got to remember, in the Jim Crow years, the problem with discrimination was in the Deep South, if you know anything about American history; from Texas to Florida, that was the heart of it. But when you went northeast, if you went southwest, you saw sprinkles of it; but the majority of it was in the South. And so Jim Brown, I’ve had conversations with Jim Brown. See, the only reason Jim Brown got to play is because the other four runningbacks got injured at Syracuse. Went on, became this great All-American, and should have won the Heisman himself. So you know, he told me the story of how he went to Texas, deep Texas when they played in the Sugar Bowl—no, the Cotton Bowl—and that they refused to let the team play if Jim Brown played. So his whole team collectively said, if you’re not going to let him play, we’re all going home. But that’s what happened, because he was a star.

RS: Well, ‘SC was involved in a similar incident, wasn’t—

AD: Well, it was the 1970 game, which I’m part of. Matter of fact, the producer might be here tonight, his name is Kerry McCluggage, who’s working on this [film] project. And ‘SC played the first integrated game.

RS: In the SEC.

AD: In the SEC. Whereas George Wallace at the time was the governor; the legendary Bear Bryant was the coach—

RS: This was Alabama.

AD: Was Alabama. And you know, Alabama was unbelievable; like, it was so segregated—

RS: But Bear Bryant was in on it, he wanted to integrate.

AD: No, he wanted, he always wanted to integrate.

RS: Yeah.

AD: I had the privilege of sitting with him in 1975 when I won the award of the most valuable player for ABC television, the most valuable player awards, won on television. He was also awarded—and he sat there and told me verbatim, he says, ‘Anthony, I get tabbed as being a devout racist. But I’ve always wanted to integrate the SEC.’ And I said well, coach, you’re the big name in the SEC. He says, ‘Well, I always wanted to have integration. And I hated the fact that’ —another player that was from Alabama named Clarence Davis—whose family actually moved to California, he went to East L.A. College and came to ‘SC, two-year All-American—was right there in the backyards of Bear Bryant. He mentioned that. And he says, ‘But a lot of blacks during that period of time didn’t even consider going to Alabama in the schools, because they don’t allow blacks to even participate and go to schools there.’ Their attitudes were, well, get out of high school, get a job, that’s it. You’re either sharecropping, or working in the factories, or whatever. Football was out. And Bear explained it. He was very, he was hurt by that, because he was tabbed as, like, the George Wallaces of that era.

JR: You know, Chapter 4, I think, of the book, which is titled ‘NFL’—‘not for long,’ or—

AD: You can say it. It’s not—

JR: I’m not going to say it. [Laughs]

AD: —well, I mean, you know. But I carried that—that’s one of the reasons I wear the symbol of this ring. I don’t wear the ring because, I wear the symbol for what a 90-year-old man said to me. I know you don’t like referring to the N-word, but this is what that old man said, 90-year-old guy. I saw him at CW & Chris down in western South Central Los Angeles.RS: What ring is that?

AD: This is an NFL ring, this is an NFL Players Association ring. This states that I played in the league, but there’s other things that I added to it. And this man helped me add it to it. He says—I hope you don’t get shut down. [Laughs]

RS: No, go ahead, go ahead, this is public radio, we can talk.

AD: Anyway, the gentleman was looking at me, says you know, you’re Anthony Davis; I’ve watched you play and saw your pro career, and I know you got injured. But you see that ring you got on your hand, son? It means three things to me. NFL, not for long, and nigga for life. I said, wow, why did he say that?

RS: This is a white guy?

AD: It was a black guy.

RS: A black guy.

AD: Ninety years old. He said, ‘I’m 90 years old. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen a man lynched, I’ve seen a man shot, I’ve seen everything. I’m from the Deep South.’

JR: And the chapter of the book begins with you saying, my mom Velma, she was born a slave—OK, we called it sharecropping down in Texas, you know, dot, dot, dot. She wouldn’t let you go play, right, in any SEC school? She wanted you to play here or—

AD: First, I was getting recruited. And she said, hey, he’s not going anywhere in the South. She said, all the letters coming to the high school for him, throw in the trash.

RS: So let me get it back to this issue, because you’ve been a pioneer—you’ve been a pioneer in a number of ways. But you know, everybody around ‘SC, what they know about you is you had it made; you were the great star, you saved ‘SC, you’re the Notre Dame Killer; you had this great, you’re a legend, right? Here, you’re a legend. And yet, there’s another side to it. Right? Injuries. You know, what happens after. Why don’t you give us that picture and talk about particularly the issue of concussions, which have been played down until recently?

JR: And I’ll just add in at the beginning here, before A.D. goes, that in the book we have two images, two brain scans, right. And when Dr. Amen was scanning your brain as one of those hundred and now fifty football players he’d scanned, he analyzed your brain and said at age 54, when you got scanned, you had the brain equivalent to an 85-year-old. So then after you started doing, you know, your work with him, I think you scanned it down to the equivalent of a 65-year-old. So while he may look good—before you and I knew him, obviously, you were a mess; and inside, obviously, even a bigger mess.

AD: Well, I realized it because you know, looking back, I made bad decisions; I was irrational; anger; just associated myself with bad people. And I realized, God, look, did you do all of this? Because you do a review of your life sometimes; you know, how you sit around, you sort of get reviewing your life, said, why did I do that? If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have had these problems today. From a societal situation, business situation, financial situation, family situation, my choices were off-base. I feel that I’m focused now; I’m in a good situation with my business; I have good people around me.

RS: What was the response of this college or any college? Because you know a lot of these football players, and did the college take any responsibility for any of the injuries, did they care?

AD: No. No, and I’m a big advocate of that; the NCAA and NFL, like you just mentioned earlier, now that they’ve admitted it, now, I think it’s time for the NCAA, especially the game of football, and the NFL, they need to step up and do something to help these guys. Most guys are not going professionally. And if you have—and I know every guy that puts a helmet on the head has brain trauma. And, like, I would like to see, if you’re going to play this game, you should have a comprehensive supplement program; you should get hyperbaric treatment; and the school, the NCAA should make sure each program has that program, along with the NFL. Since the NFL has now admitted it, to the situation. But I believe that they’re going to start putting limits on guys, how long they play, based on a yearly scan. There’s guys walking around here that have eight or nine concussions, still playing.

RS: Let me ask you a question. Because for a young black kid growing up now in L.A., football or basketball, these are the ways that they think about getting out.

AD: Out of the hood.

RS: Right? So you’re holding up a model, the media is holding up a model, of all right, you know, maybe learning is not as important; maybe school’s not as important, but you know, if you’re big enough, fast enough, you’re going to have a way out here. And there are probably a lot of kids you run into and say, hey, you’re Anthony Davis.

AD: What I stress to a kid and a mother and a father that walks up, I say listen, you might be a great athlete, but academics is the way out, not sports.

RS: Do you think the schools should do more, or the colleges?

AD: I think every school should do more. I think they should monitor every student athlete that comes here and make sure they have certain parts to play. If you can perform great on the field, you better perform in the classroom just as well, or be a participant and be able to be functional in these classrooms, where most of them are not, nationwide. It’s a problem nationwide.

RS: What about the contradiction that the coach is getting these enormous salaries, and the student’s getting so little?

AD: Well, that’s a problem, too. I mean, here, the thing, when I tell guys, students being recruited, I say listen: a coach can be there, they get two or three or four, five million dollars a year; you don’t get that; you should participate in some of that salary. And also, too, don’t ever come to a school where a coach says you’re going to be this, you’re going to be that, and next year he’s gone. Don’t base your decision on going to a school, based on what the coach tells you; you base your decision on the school that fits your need for the future.

JR: You took the 1.5 and bolted before your graduation.

AD: Right.

JR: So you’re not just saying that as somebody who hasn’t been through it.

AD: Absolutely.

JR: You’ve told me many times you regret that and would love to come back.

AD: I regret it. I regret it, but the thing that I had, I think I had going better than most guys, I had some focus; I knew I wanted to do something outside of the game, basically what I’m doing today. A lot of guys don’t have that.

RS: What are you doing today

AD: I’m in the real estate development business. I’m with a group called Greenlaw Partners. It’s a bout seven of us from USC.

RS: Frankly—I’ve gotten to know you a little bit, and frankly, I don’t see the damage. I mean, so tell me about concussions; tell me about the downside. Because you present as a very together person. What’s the hard side of this experience?

AD: Getting knocked down. I mean, just—having it all, and hitting that valley or floor, and struggling to try to climb that mountain again. That’s the toughest thing, realizing that you made so many mistakes, that you were off-base; you were hurt. And frankly, you’re pretty much dying. Because I was headed to pre-Alzheimer’s.RS: I mean, what, you couldn’t think right, or—?

AD: Oh, I wasn’t focused. I couldn’t focus—

JR: You told me you made a lot of mistakes in your personal life—

AD: I made a lot of mistakes; I mean, I made a lot of mistakes, business-wise, across the board. A lot of mistakes. I’m very fortunate to be able to sit here and tell you that I’m focused now, and ready, and been doing this for the last seven, eight years in terms of having my act together.

RS: It’s difficult for someone who hasn’t been in your shoes to understand the life of any successful athlete. I know from my own students there’s a lot of jealousy, you know; if you talk about student athletes, ‘Yeah, well, but they get this, and they get that, and they got a chance to have’—there’s a lot of resentment. And you know, ‘We pay tuition too, and we work hard.’ And when you discovered that you had problems, what was the response of the school or your old friends, of the media, or the sports writers? Were they aware that there was a problem with concussions? Was it ever—when you started talking about this, how were you received by the reporters you used to know?

AD: Thought I was wacko. They said, he’s smoking something. Listen, you know, when I started [getting] involved with this, I wasn’t aware, I was very ignorant of it, myself. I’ve been educated over the last eight years on this topic. They thought I was nuts; they said, oh, he must have had a drinking problem, he must have had a drug problem. Because a lot of that stuff floated around, too, you know. Lost all his money, did this, blah, blah, blah—which a lot of guys have substance problems even today when they get out, because of this. All they’re trying to do is combat the pain and stuff. But the bottom line is, those are the kinds of things that rumors are flying around even through the press, and even when people see me, oh, you know, that’s AD, he used to—

RS: But isn’t there a kind of corruption of the media? They’re making a living off guys like you; papers get sold, TV ratings go up, there’s a whole industry around sports. You’re the Bad News Bear here; you’re bringing news that, even with the helmet, that’s not safe.

AD: No.

JR: This is something that A.D. and I would talk about a lot when we would meet up on—

RS: How’d you guys meet, anyway? I should reintroduce you, Jeremy, because there’s this guy keeps piping up his voice. What’s your connection?

AD: I was bugged about doing this book, since I was the father of this concussion movement. And so I conversed, and then I said, well, I thought about Annenberg; and then I called an assistant or person who worked under—

RS: This is the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism! Yes.

AD: Right. And so they said, we’re looking for a guy that can work with me on putting a book together, and he was recommended by the Annenberg staff.

RS: And you were assistant dean here.

JR: I was. At that point I wasn’t yet.

RS: Well, let me put you on the spot, Jeremy Rosenberg. So you were part of the establishment here at a major university, major academically as well as in athletics. And when you started doing this story about here’s one of ‘SC’s great heroes, did people want to know about the downside?

JR: I was not, ah—I think I was a consultant at that time, so I wasn’t actually part of the administration at that moment. But when the book came out, I was. And A.D. made it clear from the start that this could be a book on the real, that we weren’t going to sugar coat anything; if he wanted to talk about the, quote unquote, ghetto steps at VKC and what life was like on campus then as opposed to what it was like at a UC school, like UCLA, where Angela Davis was, as you say, ‘rocking her fro’—he said, let’s put that all in there. So A.D. wanted it to be a full look, warts and all, at his life, at college life, at professional life. Frankly, administrators here didn’t ask what I was doing and didn’t ever, you know, read manuscripts in advance, didn’t ask to. So I wish I had gotten to have some kind of a debate or discussion with people, but frankly, they—maybe in keeping with that A.D. had disappeared a little bit off people’s radar—you know, they weren’t checking up on me and saying what are you up to, what are you doing. I will say that when you asked, you’ve talked before about concussions and the electronic media and how everyone is, you know, in a way—my word—involved in a conspiracy of sorts or a collusion of sorts, or they’re all connected. I wanted to jump on that; that’s what A.D. and I would talk about a lot when we’d meet up to write the book: what’s the future of pro football? You two, I know, are big NFL or pro football fans; I’m more of a world football, soccer fan, so it wouldn’t hurt me as much if that game disappeared. But we’d talk all the time, like, could it go away? And when you scenario plan it out, I think that it’s highly unlikely that the NFL will disappear, because yes, there’s a lot of fans; but more importantly, just like the Pentagon has, when they get a primary contractor and a million subcontractors, there are parts being made for some ship that isn’t even needed by that branch of the armed services, in so many Congressional districts, the NFL has so many media partners, streaming media partners, so the new media companies are involved; all the advertisers. You could think of, instead of a factory building a ship part in a different district, you could think of the stadiums as being 30 factories, you know, production factories for football games. So as much as I might be fine with football going away and it just becoming a virtual sport where people can still gamble based on VR and AR, and they can still gather like in Esports Arena to watch the game and cheer and tailgate, I think that it’s highly unlikely that there’s going to be anything more than incremental change, despite what the NFL just admitted.

RS: You know, you bring up an uncomfortable point. Yeah, I’m an Oakland Raiders season ticket fan; I’ve been there since the 1960s, you know, I’m a hypocrite, I’ll admit it—

JR: And my soccer players bang heads hitting the ball and get concussions that way.

RS: –OK, and I’ll admit that, but then you know, the fact is, you do hear people tell you, no! Sports are great! And they bring camaraderie, you learn a lot; I’ve heard you say that, you know. And so let’s wrap this up with, where are we going with this thing?

AD: Well, this is Robert Dixon when it comes to organized football: The more the concussion’s out publicly, amongst mothers with sons, it’s going to start right there. The less they play, that’s going to be the diminish of the future farm teams of college and professional football. And I believe if it does continue, both on the collegiate and the professional level, I believe it’s going to be a scanning program on how long guys can play. If you have some serious head injuries, you’re not going to play anymore. I believe that the NFL eventually will scan each player’s brain every year; that’s where it’s headed. And make a determination of whether or not this guy’s going to play or not. And you have guys that play on Sunday who fake the protocol, the concussion protocol, to get back out there. But down the road, you’re going to pay [the price]—I believe that’s where it’s going. And oh, by the way, as we speak, there’s been eight related deaths this past year, and concussions are up 50 percent in the National Football League from last year. So it’s coming to a crossroad, and they have to make a decision what they do. I know it’s a lot of money, means a lot, lot of sponsorship. And you’ve got 32 of the collectively, 32 collective richest men in the world that control the National Football League. So you got to make a decision, and you got to let them know, listen, you’re playing football—it’s a great game, but it’s a dangerous game, and you got to let everybody know the consequences of playing this game and what the repercussions will be after you play five to six or maybe ten years.

RS: Can it be made safe?

AD: No. You could put a tank around your head. No one can see it, but [shakes water bottle, sound of water sloshing] You can hear that? That’s what your brain feels like when you get hit. It shakes. You could put a six-inch wall around that head, but the brain is soft matter. It’s like cottage cheese, and every time it bangs against the walls, that’s damage. That’s trauma.

RS: Are there sane sports, and is baseball or maybe basketball one of them, where you don’t suffer that much? And maybe football, certainly if it were not so lucrative to so many people financially, maybe football would be history?

AD: It’s very lucrative. I mean, it’s the number one sport in the country. I don’t know what they’re going to do. They’re at a crossroads; they got to make a decision what they’re going to do. I mean, I’ll probably be long gone before something happens; no one will probably be in this room before it happens, or it might be the tail end of my life. But I see it changing dramatically.

JR: I’m telling you, holograms, VR, AR, you can still gamble, you can still gather, you can still tailgate—just won’t be any concussions, because homo sapiens won’t be involved. [Laughter]

RS: Turn it virtual. Jeremy Rosenberg, Anthony Davis, a great legend at USC, one of the great football centers. And want to thank you for coming in here for this edition of Scheer Intelligence podcast. You’ve added a lot of intelligence to the enterprise.

AD, JR: Thank you.

RS: That’s it for another edition of Scheer Intelligence. My guests were Anthony Davis and Jeremy Rosenberg. Producers Josh Scheer and Rebecca Mooney, with a big assist from Sebastian Grubaugh at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.


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