As It Happens

Son of Hall of Famer Mike Webster angry the NFL only now admits a link between football and CTE

Garrett Webster's father was the first former NFL player to be diagnosed with the brain disease CTE. He reacts to a stunning admission from a top NFL executive, acknowledging the link between playing the game and the degenerative brain disease.
Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster is shown in this 1988 season photo. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

For the first time, a senior official with the NFL has publicly acknowledged a connection between football and a degenerative brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE.

But for Garrett Webster, the son of the first retired NFL player diagnosed with CTE, Mike Webster, it comes far too late.

For a long time our family had a lot of self-hatred and self-blame that Mike Webster suffered, that he fell so far.- Garrett Webster, son

The NFL's senior vice-president of health and safety policy was participating Monday in a discussion with the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce when he was asked directly if he thought a link existed between the sport and the brain injury.

"The answer to that question is certainly yes," said Miller.

NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy Jeff Miller speaks during an NFL health and safety news conference in San Francisco in February. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Garrett Webster tells As It Happens host Carol Off that Miller's admission does not go far enough.

"It's nice they're acknowledging it," he says. "But it's sad that they can't emphatically embrace the disease . . . and say, 'Hey, this is a disease and we're really going to try and help these guys out that are struggling.'"

The league has been dogged for years by complaints that it has hidden the risks of repeated concussions in order to return players to the field.

Garrett Webster (right) says he isn't getting his hopes up about the NFL's admission on a link between CTE and football (Garrett Webster)

Hall-of-Famer Mike Webster was diagnosed with CTE in 2002 through the autopsy conducted after his death.

"For a long time our family had a lot of self-hatred and self-blame that Mike Webster suffered, that he fell so far. And when we found that [it was CTE], it was a relief," says Garrett Webster.

"After that, of course, it sets in, the anger at this sport that he played and what it caused and what it cost, not just him, but all of us. And it's terrible. And it seems sometimes that the people who, for a lack of a better word, are responsible for it, don't care."

Mike Webster poses with his bronze bust after being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 26, 1997, in Canton, Ohio. (Phil Long/AP)

The NFL issued a statement on Tuesday stating: "The comments made by [VP] Jeff Miller yesterday accurately reflect the view of the NFL."

Asked what his father would think of the NFL's statement, Webster says, "He would be amazed and disgusted that people that have everything — money, power fame, whatever — could care this little about their employees."

With files from CBC News


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