Concussion Discussion Needs Better than Arland Bruce

VANCOUVER, CANADA - NOVEMBER 27: Arland Bruce #1 and Andrew Harris #33 of the BC Lions celebrate fourth-quarter touchdown against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the CFL 99th Grey Cup November 27, 2011 at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

It’s not a win for pro football. Nor is it a loss for retired players or the medical community seeking an acknowledgement from professional football that brain injuries are caused by the sport.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s refusal to hear Arland Bruce III’s lawsuit against the CFL isn’t the landmark precedent-setting case some are calling it to be. On the surface this appears to be nothing more than a young man struggling through his transition into civilian life, looking for a golden parachute on his way out the door.

Shaky Evidence 

The heart of Bruce’s complaint stems from an incident during a late season game in Saskatchewan during the 2012 season while still a member of the B.C. Lions. He alleges being knocked unconscious and then allowed to play again 42 days later.

This would all make sense if there wasn’t TSN footage still on record of sideline reporter Lee Jones telling the audience about the Lions training staff arguing with Bruce to keep him out of the game after the collision despite his protests that he was ready to go back in.

This would also carry more weight if all players today who suffered unconsciousness and had to go through concussion protocol sat out more than 42 days before their next snap (many of them are still back playing much sooner).

It might help too if Bruce hadn’t played one more season and collected another year’s worth of salary from the league before deciding he needed to take advantage of the concussion crisis threatening to bring football to it’s knees by coming up with his lawsuit.

Bruce Needs Money 

The lawyer representing Arland Bruce is Vancouver-based attorney Robyn Wishart who has told the CBC that Bruce has now received his permanent resident card and is up to date working on his child support. These are signs of someone struggling to adjust to civilian life which is not uncommon for ex-athletes, especially one who has played pro football for 14 years.

But it’s not proof of wrong-doing on the part of the league or the B.C. Lions.

Not A Sympathetic Character

Bruce was known for run-ins with coaches and teammates through his days with the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats before ending up in B.C. At the end of his career he drew attention by suggesting future Montreal Alouettes linebacker Michael Sam–pro football’s first openly gay player–should “get on his knees and submit to god fully”.

That’s not evidence to disprove his claim but definitely hurts his ability to gather public sympathy in going after a league whose very existence would be threatened by lawsuits like these, unlike their uber wealthy counterparts in the National Football League south of the border who have pockets deep enough to settle these issues via a class action settlement.

Discussion Has Merit

So Arland Bruce and his lawyer will go to arbitration and the debate will rage on about the dangers of football and what to do with the future of the sport.

It’s a critical issue that needs to be kicked around.

One doesn’t need to look far to find out about retired Winnipeg Blue Bomber linebacker Jonathan Hefney who struggles to regain full use of his right hand, resulting from injuries sustained while playing in the CFL. He has since had to set up a gofundme page just to try and keep up with his medical bills.

After career care for these players is a big problem, especially for those who have lingering issues after their playing careers have ended.

This discussion isn’t going away anytime soon and nor should it.

But it needs a lot more than Arland Bruce to champion any meaningful change.


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