If you follow football, you know that there's been a lot of talk lately about the damage done to player's brains. According to an article in the New York Times, at least 20 former NFL players have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease that can result in memory loss, depression, and other symptoms. Researchers are working to understand the links between CTE and the concussions and other injuries that players endure over the course of their careers.
Last week's suicide of former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson brought these issues to the headlines, but they've been a concern for much, much longer. That's probably why the NFL forced Toyota to censor one of its Super Bowl ads this year: the images landed just a bit too close to home.
The ad featured two football players colliding and a discussion of safety technology that Toyota has developed to protect passengers' heads during accidents -- technology that Toyota has shared with researchers at Wake Forest to help make football helmets safer. When NFL reps saw the ad, their response was swift. According to Tim Morrison, corporate marketing communications manager for Toyota's U.S. operations, "The NFL saw it on Monday Night Football and the next morning we got the call... It was just 'please, don't show it,' so we just tweaked it and took the image out."
At the time, of course, neither Toyota nor the NFL had any idea just how pressing these concerns would become. Then on February 17, a week and a half after the Super Bowl, things became much more complicated. That's when Duerson, 50, killed himself with a gunshot to the chest -- an act specifically designed to keep Duerson's brain intact so that it could be studied by specialists in CET.
It goes without saying that Duerson's untimely death was heart-wrenching for family, friends, and fans. It's also generated tense discussions throughout the NFL -- though to its credit, the league has donated $1 million the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University. Perhaps between medical researchers and Toyota's safety team, we'll arrive at a proper solution to this very serious problem.
Because Toyota's ad was censored, we don't know exactly what it would've looked like, but we're guessing it would've been a lot like this clip, taken from Toyota's ongoing Ideas for Good campaign.