Former MLS man sues for negligence; this could get real ugly

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Former MLS Bryan Namoff is suing D.C. United (and therefore MLS), and this is not good news for anybody.

The Washington Post reported today a $12 million lawsuit filed against the MLS club and Tom Soehn, who coached the team in 2009 during the time in question.

Points to consider here as this one begins to wind through the legal system – slowly, I’m sure, since these things can take years to fully unfold.

  • This is a potential precedent setter. There are other, similar cases out there – some we know about and others we may not know about.
  • Soehn remains in MLS; he is now director of soccer operations for the Vancouver Whitecaps. So, who knows how this might affect him personally? Suffice to say, it will be an unpleasant distraction at very best, with depositions, potential legal fees, etc.
  • ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman, who has done fantastic work in raising awareness of concussion-related problems in athletics and in MLS in particular, will surely have strong thoughts on this one. Whether he can share them all – that’s a delicate issue. We’ll have to see how that plays out.
  • Protocol for dealing with concussions and head injury is much more thoughtful today, but certainly was not always so thorough. Steven Goff’s Washington Post blog entry has more detail.

The last one is tough, personally.

I was at an MLS match a few years ago. A public relations person told me that a certain player was scratched from the lineup, still suffering from the effects of a concussion. He would not play.

Except that he was on the bench, which was odd – and that came as a big surprise to the person who discussed with me the player’s head injury from a previous match.

And in the second half, on that player trotted into the game.

I never got a full explanation of how that happened. Since it wasn’t a team I covered regularly, I never followed up aggressively. In my position at the time, that just wasn’t my job.

But I always wondered was I somehow remiss? Should I have asked more questions about that one?  The fact is, I was a freelance journalist then, and the economics work like this: if someone isn’t paying you to perform a certain task, you simply cannot devote lots of time going down potential rabbit holes.

And yet … I wonder to this day if I contributed somehow to a larger epidemic (or to that player’s potential personal health) by not pressing the issue.

When I see what Namoff is alleging, I wonder if I (and probably some other journalists) fumbled this one along the way. Goff’s story from The Post says Namoff alleges that he “suffered brain damage and cognitive, memory and sensory loss. He also has permanent headaches and fatigue, sleep problems and hypersensitivity to motion, the lawsuit says.”