Former San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau is inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame during a halftime ceremony in an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
It’s been confirmed that 43-year-old former NFL star Junior Seau has taken his own life with a gunshot to the chest. Seau was a towering legend in San Diego and Southern California, where he starred in three sports at San Diego’s Oceanside High School, was an All-American at USC, then became a ten-time All-Pro for the San Diego Chargers. Seau was also active in his own San Diego–based foundation and was known for being an active presence throughout the city. Warning signs blared two years ago, when Seau, after being questioned on charges of domestic violence, drove his car off of a cliff. He later said that he fell asleep at the wheel. The local police accepted his word and let it go.
This is the second suicide by an NFL player in the last two weeks. On April 19, Ray Easterling, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons and a lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the NFL for their handling of head injuries, took his own life. Seau is also the eighth player from the 1994 AFC Champion San Diego Chargers team to die. Two of those deaths were freak occurrences. Doug Miller was struck by lightning twice and Rodney Culver died in a plane crash. The other six deaths—suicide, drugs, alcohol, obesity—are ailments the National Football League is getting to know all too well.
These are issues NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the various team owners are loathe to discuss, but with Seau, they won’t have a choice. In Seau, a larger than life Hall of Fame player, we have someone with friends throughout the ranks of the league and especially in the media. It will be incredibly difficult to keep this under wraps. People will want answers. Over the summer, former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson took his own life with a gunshot to the chest so his brain could be studied for the effects of concussive injuries. Junior Seau now joins him, a gunshot to the chest. There is a discussion that the NFL is going to have to have with a team of doctors, players and the public. Right now, this is not a league safe for human involvement. I have no idea how to make it safer. But I do know that the status quo is absolutely unacceptable.