Paul Tagliabue apologizes for calling concussions a “pack-journalism issue” in 1994

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has apologized comments he made about concussions decades ago.

Back in 1994, Tagliabue (who served as commissioner from 1989 to 2006) called concussions “one of those pack-journalism issues” and claimed the number of concussions “is relatively small; the problem is the journalist issue.” In an interview that aired Wednesday, he said he regretted those comments. Tagliabue spoke to Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network earlier this week, with the interview airing on SB Nation Radio Wednesday, and said he was wrong to make those claims. Here’s the full interview:

And some of the key remarks, which Judge transcribes here:

“Obviously,” he said, “I do regret those remarks. Looking back, it was not sensible language to use to express my thoughts at the time. My language was intemperate, and it led to serious misunderstanding. I overreacted on issues which we were already working on. But that doesn’t excuse the overreaction and intemperate language.

“Bottom line: It sounded like I was shooting the messenger, which was the concussion issue. My intention at the time was to make a point which could have been made fairly simply: That there was a need for better data. There was a need for more reliable information about concussions and uniformity in terms of how they were being defined in terms of severity.

“Reporting from the clubs was inadequate at that time. The bottom line was we needed to improve the system we had. You couldn’t draw firm conclusions based on what we had. Like I say, I overreacted and made it appear like I was shooting the messenger, which was a mistake.”

Tagliabue goes on to mention that his comments were based off data they’d reviewed from the clubs that didn’t show an increase in concussions over the years leading up to that, but that “the consistency there was more about the inadequacy of our reporting system than what was going on on the playing field.”

The concussion conversation is only part of this, of course; Tagliabue also discusses the controversial appointment of rheumatologist Dr. Elliot Pellman to head the league’s mild traumatic brain injury committee, the Rams and Raiders leaving Los Angeles during his tenure (and how there was a deal in place for the Raiders to go to Hollywood Park, where the Rams and Chargers will soon be playing, but Al Davis backed out at the last minute), the challenges in getting stadiums built in San Francisco and San Diego and more.

Still, the concussion comments are the most notable, especially as Tagliabue will again be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday (after failing to achieve induction in 2006, 2008, and 2009). Given how concussions have become such a big issue for the NFL, those comments were something Tagliabue was going to have to address. It’s positive that he now admits he was wrong, but there are many who still won’t be satisfied with his overall handling of concussions. We’ll see what the Hall of Fame voters think.

[The Associated Press]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.