Aaron Hernandez's family has filed a lawsuit against the NFL after a study of his brain determined Hernandez had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died at age 27.
The news about Hernandez's brain injury comes as the NFL is reeling from poor ticket sales and half empty stadiums in the wake of protests by black NFL players.
A Boston University study found CTE in 110 out of 111 brains of former football players. CTE can only be diagnosed after death.
But the NFL has disputed the findings, saying Dr. Bennet Omalu, who first found CTE in football players, has fueled a hysteria around concussions that can occur in any contact sport.
The NFL cautioned the public not to make a martyr out of the troubled former New England Patriots wide receiver who committed suicide by hanging in his prison cell on April 19, 2017. Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the murder of his friend Odin Lloyd.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Hernandez showed violent tendencies long before he was drafted by the Patriots.
“His personal story is complex, it doesn’t lend itself to simple answers,” said Lockhart. “He was convicted of a homicide and his well-documented behavioral issues began long before he played in the National Football League. The real victims are the friends and family of those he killed, along with his young daughter.”
Lockhart said more research is needed regarding CTE, since the disease is considered more of an issue with boxers than football players.
“It’s a very complicated puzzle,” he said. “Every piece is important. There are a lot of dots here, and science just hasn’t been able to connect them."
Lockhart said the NFL will "vigorously contest" the lawsuit filed by Hernandez's common law wife Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, the mother of his 4-year-old daughter Avielle Hernandez.
The league will probably bring up the league's concussion class action settlement with the NFL Players' Union that prevents any future lawsuits from being filed by any football player.