Patrick Hruby: George Visger & The NFL’s Propaganda Machine

Feb 8, 2013

NFL propaganda for DummiesOur friend Patrick Hruby has been busy of late. Patrick spent some one-on-one time with George Visger a few weeks ago to pull together one of the most detailed stories of George’s life in the NFL and after the NFL. During the NFL’s (and the NFLPA’s) PR run to this year’s Super Bowl, we’ve done our best to show the other side of football: The REAL side of what happens to many of their older players of the past. George has been one of the best examples of everything that the League and the Union can do to a retired player after he leaves the game damaged. While the League can toss aside a lot of other players more easily, George has a lot going for AND against him: He played in Super Bowl XVI for the winning San Francisco 49ers (he only got the ring to show for it) and left the season with severe brain injuries as a direct (and documented) result of playing for the NFL. He qualified for California Workers Compensation (in fact, George was probably one of the first and more prominent football cases back in the early 80’s) even though they fought him for several years before he finally won his case. But once again on the NFL side – even though George proved his case to Workers Comp and recently to Social Security Disability – George will still never receive one penny of direct disability or pension benefits from the League because according to their ridiculous rules, he didn’t play long enough. As a pre-1993 retired player, George had to have played for four seasons to be fully vested (post-1993 players “only” need to have three seasons to be vested for benefits).
And on and on it goes. For better and for worse.

George Visger Brain Shunt

George Visger’s Brain Shunt


The Damage Done


Football Made George Visger the Man He is Today – For Better and For Worse

George Visger
LOS ANGELES — On a postcard-perfect Southern California morning, George Visger is pissing blood. This comes as a relief. For me, mostly. But also for him. Things could be worse. He could be having a seizure. Or slipping into a coma. Which means I could be jamming a one-inch butterfly needle into a thumbnail-sized hole in the side of his skull, trying to siphon off excess spinal fluid while avoiding what Visger calls “the white stuff.”
The white stuff being brain tissue.
Read the rest of this article over on ESPN Outside the Lines by clicking HERE.
Then another piece from Patrick about the NFL’s Alice-in-Wonderland Fantasy approach to concussions and brain damage, even as the crew is standing on the deck of a rapidly sinking Titanic…
Sports on Earth logo


Suppose you work for Phillip Morris. Er, Altria. Whatever. And suppose you’re making a commercial, highlighting advances in cigarette filter technology. The theme is forever nicotine. The target audience is moms, kids, potential customers, anyone with a sneaking suspicion that smoking might be, you know, bad for them.
Crazy, right?
Anyway, you need celebrities. Familiar faces. Names viewers can trust. Like Walt Disney. He was a smoker. As was Paul Newman. And Peter Jennings. Thing is, all three men died of lung cancer. With that in mind, would you still include them — well, actors portraying them, touched up with a little digital magic — in your spot?
Congratulations. You’re officially less cynical than the NFL.
Read the rest of this post at Sports on Earth by clicking HERE.
P.S. – George Visger would like to run into Deion Sanders one of these days.
Patrick HrubyPatrick Hruby is a contributing writer for Sports on Earth. A culture writer for The Washington Times, his work has appeared in The Washingtonian, ESPN The Magazine and on, The Atlantic online, The PostGame, ESPNw, Business Insider and The Guardian online.

3 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Brian J. Nemeth
    February 9th, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    Brian Nemeth

    Speaking of Workers Comp, when I hurt myself playing the Raiders, my left leg became more and more paralyzed. I was hospitalized for over a month. After surgery my paralysis abated to only my left foot. Anyway, I was immediately covered by Workers Comp and am still on it today; I’m having my fourth surgery soon.

    Thank God for Workers Comp! San Francisco actually traded me to the Jets after my surgery! What a joke – good story though! George is a real hero. The public doesn’t care about us. Never have, never will. That’s why they call them fan-atics.

    KEEP on plugging, George! I think of you every time I feel sorry for myself. A true warrior!

    Brian J. Nemeth
    1976 draft from South Carolina
    to San Francisco 49ers

  2. Ron Pritchard
    February 9th, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Ron Pritchard

    Thanks, Patrick, for all the wonderful messages you write about concerning the NFL and its attempts to side-step their concussion problems. Our former players need to be more informed by reading all they can from writers like you.

    I took the time to read your Sports on Earth article and it’s terrific! The lack of humility that the NFL shows towards the former concussed players is remarkably ugly. I believe the NFL has been exploiting its players for years. They have been making billions of dollars off the backs of its employees all this time yet feel no responsibility toward the broken bodies and broken brains of those same people.

    We are – and were – trained to be tough guys and they use that ideology to their advantage with the concussion question. Tough guys can take the hits and still play, right? Wrong!!! Exploitation of people anywhere at any time is just plain wrong and bad business.

    The question I have of the NFL is: Why? Why does the most famous brand in the world want to have the reputation as an exploiter of people? To take advantage of hurting and injured people? The NFL would save face and tons of money if they would simply do what’s right with the former players’ injury problems.

    But once again, it seems the lack of humility prevails!

    Bad – VERY bad – behavior, boys.

    Ron Pritchard
    Houston Oilers, Cincinnati Bengals
    1969 – 1977

  3. Dave Pear
    February 9th, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Dave at Home


    Soon the taxpayers will be paying for your substantial medical bills via Medicare.

    As in my case, after I spent over $600,000 of my family’s money on medical bills for injuries I received in the NFL, medicare then paid for my last five operations at an additional cost of over $300,000 so far.

    These operations included:
    1) Lower back spine surgery (2007)
    2) Total left hip replacement (2008)
    3) Hydro seal (2009)
    4) Lower back spine surgery (2011)
    5) Total right hip replacement (2012)

    And this Wednesday (2/13/2013) I have a doctor’s appointment for upcoming spine surgery on my lower back.

    The NFL has never paid one penny! NOTHING. But they do qualify for a 501(c)6 nonprofit status along with an antitrust exemption.

    Then the NFL team doctors pay their prospective teams for the “honor” of being their doctor, entertainers at halftime perform for free during the Super Bowl and taxpayers pay for all these fancy football stadiums. It seems EVERYONE foots the bills for the NFL. Except the $10 billion NFL.

    NFL Rakes In Super Bowl Profits, Gets Non-Profit Tax Exemptions
    Independent Voter Network – 6 days ago
    The NFL is a tax-exempt 501(c)6 non-profit as recognized by the IRS. Super Bowl Profits of over $245 million from 2012 alone has raised …

    Click HERE to read the rest of that article.

    Conyers seeks to get rid of NFL’s antitrust exemption
    Mar 14, 2011 – Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, wants to get rid of the antitrust exemption that allows the …

    Click HERE to read the rest of that older article from 2011.

    Lately, I’ve seriously begun to wonder if the NFL now expects the public to pay for the 5,000+ concussion lawsuits filed against them as well? These people take the term Corporate Welfare to a whole new level.

    Dave Pear
    Pro Bowl 1978
    Super Bowl XV