A wrongful death lawsuit filed against the NCAA by the widow of former University of Southern California football player Matthew Gee was set to head to trial in a Los Angeles court Friday. Of the hundreds of wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits brought by college football players against the NCAA in the past decade, Gee’s is only the second to go to trial. It could be the first to reach a jury.
A 2018 trial in Texas led to a settlement after several days of testimony by witnesses for the widow of Greg Ploetz, who played defense for Texas in the late 1960s. In 2016, the NCAA agreed to settle a class-action concussion lawsuit. The settlement included:
- $70 million to monitor former college athlete’s medical conditions;
- $5 million toward medical research; and
- Payments of up to $5,000 toward individual players claiming injuries.
Gee died in 2018 at age 49 from permanent brain damage caused by countless blows to the head he took while playing linebacker at USC in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The lawsuit alleges the hits to the head led to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
“For years [the NCAA] has kept players like Matthew Gee and the public in the dark about an epidemic that was slowly killing college athletes,” the lawsuit said. “The NCAA knew of the harmful effects … on athletes for decades, they ignored these facts and failed to institute any meaningful methods of warning and/or protecting the athletes.”
In response to the lawsuit, the NCAA said it wasn’t responsible for the the football player’s death. The NCAA instead blamed the death on heavy drinking, drugs and other health problems.
“Mr. Gee used alcohol and drugs to cope with a traumatic childhood, to fill in the loss of identity he felt after his football playing days ended, and to numb the chronic and increasing pain caused by numerous health issues,” NCAA lawyers wrote in a filing in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Gee was one of five linebackers on the 1989 Trojans squad who died before turning 50. His brain was examined posthumously at Boston University and found to have CTE.
THE N-C DOUBLE A COULD POTENTIALLY BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR A COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYER’S DEATH AFTER HE PLAYED SEVERAL YEARS IN THE LEAGUE AS A LINEBACKER.
THE WIDOW OF ATHLETE SAYING THE N-C DOUBLE A FAILED TO PROTECT HIM FROM HEAD TRAUMA.
PART OF A LARGER CONVERSATION ON LONG TERM CONCUSSION REPERCUSSIONS IN BOTH COLLEGE AND PROFESSIONAL SPORTS.
MATHEW GEE PLAYED COLLEGE BALL SEVERAL DECADES AGO…
HE WAS PART OF THE WINNING TEAM FOR THE 19-90 ROSE BOWL GAME.
FAST FORWARD 28 YEARS…HE DIED IN 20-18…THE CAUSE OF DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SUIT…WAS BRAIN DAMAGE THAT HIS WIDOW TRACED BACK TO HIS N-C DOUBLE A DAYS.
SHE SLAPPED THE LEAGUE WITH A WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT AND THEY’LL SIT ACROSS FROM EACH OTHER FOR DAY ONE IN COURT TODAY.
IT’S A POSITION THE N-C DOUBLE A HAS BECOME FAMILIAR WITH.
SUED HUNDREDS OF TIMES OVER THE SAME THING.
POSSIBLE NEUROLOGICAL DAMAGE CAUSED BY HITS TO THE HEAD.
IT PUTS THE SPORT OF FOOTBALL INBETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE.
YOU ARE A MASSIVE SOURCE OF ENTERTAINMENT.
THE BLOCKBUSTER OF AMERICAN SPORTS.
BUT THE SAFETY OF YOUR ACTORS COULD BE AT RISK.
IN 20-10…THE NCAA REQUIRED SCHOOLS TO HAVE A CONCUSSION PROTOCOL.
TWENTY YEARS AFTER GEE PLAYED IN THEIR CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.