Sacred Cowboys

What’s the difference between the Dallas Morning News and The New York Times? When Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Rayfield Wright died this week, the long obituary in the News said he had been hospitalized with a “severe seizure” but waited until the last sentence to reveal that he had been diagnosed with dementia in 2012. The Times’ obit mentioned his dementia in the first sentence, adding that Wright believed his dementia “was most likely caused by repeated blows to the head” and so many concussions he couldn’t count them.

I sent a note to David Moore, the Cowboys beat writer who penned the obit, pointing out that not mentioning Wright’s dementia until the last sentence suggested that the NFL has co-opted even the press to hide the inconvenient truth that football damages the brains of linemen in particular (as studies have shown). “I realize that someone who makes his living covering the Cowboys has an investment in the game, but you are also a reporter. Basic principles still apply.” I sent a copy to the new editor-in-chief of the Morning News, Katrice Hardy. Twenty-four hours have passed, and neither has responded.

Which is not surprising because what are they going to say? Are they going to agree that Moore’s burying the lede in Wright’s obit is simply in keeping with the News’ tacit policy that football must be protected at all costs against the mounting evidence its violent collisions can lead to premature physical and mental decline — and death? The Rayfield Wright obit is just more proof that football is a religious brand in North Texas and carries the same unassailable status as scripture and unregulated capitalism.

“Rayfield Wright is the epitome of what it takes to be a Hall of Famer,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was quoted saying in the News‘ obit. “Rayfield was a champion on and off the field.” etc. etc. “Our love and support go out to his wife, Di, and the entire Wright family.”

Of course it does. How much are the Cowboys worth? $6.5 billion?

What’s the value of a single human being? An impolite question that no one at the Morning News will be asking today — or tomorrow, certainly not in the sports pages.

About Sean Mitchell

SEAN MITCHELL is a journalist, critic and former staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald Examiner and Dallas Times Herald. His articles and reviews have also appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, and other publications. Born in Bethlehem, Pa., he grew up in Dallas and is a graduate of St. Mark’s School of Texas and Brown University. He lives in Dallas.
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7 Responses to Sacred Cowboys

  • Chip Keyes says:

    A valuable comment on values and priorities in sports and those who make a living off sports.

  • Tony Vintcent says:

    Wow, Sean!! Provocative and worthwhile. Well done!

  • I suspect my childhood concussions made a songwriter out of me. Broke down the “boundaries’
    in my brain. My words have sounds and my my notes have colors.

  • Chris Wohlwend says:

    Thanks for posting this, Sean. Needed to be said, especially in your home state.

  • Ariel Hannah wright says:

    I am rayfield wrights youngest daughter Ariel Hannah wright and you are correct.

  • Laurel Lee , former Cowboy cheerleader says:

    Spot on!

  • Joe Arata says:

    Maybe his life is not defined by his manner of death? You are injecting politics into an obit that is life celebratory. Moore is correct with his emphasis, you are wrong. You are just a hater of football and probably of all successful people in general. You’ve been around liberal rag’s too long to recognize your bias.

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