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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Will the NFL's New Whistleblower Program End the League's Concussion Headaches?

The NFL announced this week that it will implement a whistleblower program designed to deal with its ongoing concussion scandal. Under the proposed policy, the details of which still need to be worked out with the union, medical personnel pressured to clear players before those players are healthy enough to return to the gridiron, or players pressured to play, can file anonymous reports that should lead to league follow-up investigations.

Players have already expressed doubts about the likely effectiveness of this proposal. According to ESPN,
. . . a healthy dose of skepticism remains.

"I think, of all the things they're recommending [on dealing with concussions], that will be the toughest sell," said 11-year veteran tight end Ernie Conwell. "Players hate to be labeled, you know? And no one wants to be labeled a snitch or a rat -- that's for sure. So I feel like it's going to take a lot of education to make the players feel comfortable with it."
I spent a considerable amount of time last summer writing a Boston University Law Review article on corporate fraud whistleblowers (which you can download free of charge here), and one of the main conclusions I developed was that, while laudable, anonymous reporting alone does not encourage whistleblowers to report negative information about their employers. The economic, social, and psychological factors militating against whistleblowing, such as the "rat" label mentioned by Conwell, are simply too powerful. The most effective whistleblowing programs have involved financial bounties or rewards for reporting accurate information about organizational wrondoing. Obviously, the NFL is not yet prepared to take that step.

Still, this seems like progress on the concussion issue. Moreover, it may represent an increased interest on the part of leagues in developing internal reporting systems to address persistent problems. Perhaps an anonymous steroid whistleblower line will be the next step?


The Whistleblower program will not end the problems. The problems will never end until the players themselves take matters into their own hands. As long as they continnue to challenge each other's manhood in the locker room it won't matter who reports anything. The players don't like to be frowned upon or thought of as injury prone so they will play as long a doctor clears them.

Blogger James -- 6/20/2007 7:55 PM  

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