The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Family of Junior Seau talks about why it is pursuing a lawsuit against the NFL

(Associated Press)

Just two and a half years after a decorated, 20-year NFL career ended, Junior Seau committed suicide. He shot himself in the chest in May 2012 so that his brain could be preserved for study.

Sure enough, an examination of Seau’s brain tissue revealed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease that can cause behavioral changes, depression, memory loss and dementia. The disease has been found in the brains of dozens of deceased football players.

Seau’s case of CTE made his family eligible for a $4 million payout from the NFL, under the terms of a settlement of a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of thousands of former players. But Seau’s family, including his ex-wife, Gina, and children Tyler, Sydney, Jake and Hunter opted out of the settlement, choosing to continue their own lawsuit against the league.

In a “60 Minutes Sports” segment set to air Tuesday night on Showtime, family members discussed losing Seau and why they are pursuing their action against the league. They took issue with the fact that the blockbuster settlement involved no admission on the part of the NFL that its policies led directly to brain injuries.

“The NFL is taking no ownership for what they’ve done. There’s no responsibility on their part,” Tyler Seau told reporter Armen Keteyian. In September, Steven Strauss, a lawyer for the family made this statement to ESPN:

“The family want to know why this settlement seems designed for expediency for the NFL and to ensure that information doesn’t come out. And the Seau family wants the truth to come out.
“Since this litigation started, there hasn’t been one document produced, there hasn’t been one deposition taken. It seems very clearly designed to nip this in the bud and not have the truth come out, and that’s not acceptable to the Seau family, and it’s not acceptable to Junior’s legacy.”

Another problem Strauss noted that the Seau family had with the settlement was that it inadequately compensated descendants of former players, a position that drew a rebuke from one of the lawyers who represented the players’ side. But Sydney Seau told Keteyian that she and her family were not motivated by the possibility of a bigger payout.

“We’re risking everything. It’s about the message,” Sydney said.

Here is a clip of the “60 Minutes Sports” segment: