GamesOver Retracts Shocking NFL Suicide Statistic
The organization behind the common assertion that NFL players commit suicide at six times the national average has conceded that the statistic lacks substantiation and has removed the number from its website. The action follows an investigative report by Breitbart Sports disputing the widely-referenced claim.
“The suicide rate for active and retired football players is six times greater than the national average,” claimed GamesOver.org. The statistic found its way into Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy’s memoir Quiet Strength, a 2012 New York Times op-ed by Frank Bruni, a 2011 Washington Post sports piece by Sally Jenkins, and scores of other articles that fueled a perception that linked playing football with committing suicide.
A comprehensive 2012 study that the NFL Players Association petitioned the federal government to conduct found a rate of suicide in 3,439 pension-vested NFL retirees at less than half of what they expected based on prevailing societal rates. GamesOver’s founder Ken Ruettgers, an inductee into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame who earned a PhD. after retiring from the NFL, reached out to Breitbart Sports after hearing Rush Limbaugh discuss the Breitbart Sports series “The NFL Suicide Epidemic Myth” on his radio program.
“It is a classic illustration of how lies and untruth and BS end up as conventional wisdom throughout the Drive-By Media,” Limbaugh remarked on Wednesday’s broadcast. “The key to it is the original claimant, in order to get the original story picked up, has to somehow satisfy the sensibilities and the bias of somebody in the media.”
Ruettgers conceded in an email to Breitbart Sports following Limbaugh’s broadcast and the publication of the series that he had been unable to find any documentation buttressing the freqently invoked statistic. He affirmed the statistic is probably “bogus” and announced that he had deleted the misleading information from GamesOver’s site.
Ruettgers explained Friday that the dubious claim “was not an ‘intentional’ oversight or misconduct on my part or anyone at gamesover to mislead or push an agenda based on this statistic. Gamesover has never—to my understanding—ever connected suicide rates to concussions. In my opinion, NFL suicide is far more complex than a ‘causational’ concussion link to suicide and no science that I know of links suicide to concussion injury. In fact, in radio and print interviews I have done, I have made a consistently strong point to state this.”
Although Ruettgers has dedicated part of his post-playing days to helping former competitors face life’s challenges after professional athletic challenges cease, he did not join the recent lawsuit against the NFL, which relies in part upon the idea that brain trauma led to suicide in NFL players. The suicide statistic may have become the primary reason why journalists invoked GamesOver, but the organization’s website listed it under “depression” as one of ten challenges facing athletes in retirement.
“You were once treated like the royalty of our American culture,” the GamesOver website counsels retired athletes. “Now, after leaving the game, it feels like you’ve been kicked out of the palace and left with the harsh realities of unfamiliar life on the streets of the ‘real’ world. And it’s a challenge to stay out of the gutter of life.” The site encourages retired athletes to overcome real-world obstacles as they had overcome obstacles during competition.
Now that GamesOver has retracted the statistic, will corrections be forthcoming from Time, the Washington Post, San Diego Union-Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bleacher Report, and US News and World Report?
Daniel J. Flynn, the author of The War on Football: Saving America’s Game (Regnery, 2013), edits Breitbart Sports.