Ray Easterling, who was the lead plaintiff in the first case filed against the NFL last August, has died at the age of 62. According to his attorney, his death was a result of suicide.
Easterling was a safety for Atlanta Falcons in the 1970′s, and was a starter on the 1977 “Grits Blitz” team that still holds the record for fewest points allowed per game in the NFL since 1950.
According to the New York Times obituary, he returned to Richmond, where he starred in college, after his retirement and started a financial services firm and a charity football camp. However, he began manifesting signs of dementia twenty years ago.
Here were some comments attributed to Ray Easterling last year on a NFL alumni website in response to an article about preventing dementia:
“Jeff, great suggestions, but what if I have already been doing all those things and my brain disease is accelerating? The N.F.L. is non-complaint,so far, to providing me with disability benefits because of early retirement?”
Easterling’s death obviously adds another layer to ongoing concussion litigation that continues to grow (Mark Chmura is the most recent named plaintiff in yet another case filed Friday) as one of the initial parties. I would anticipate Easterling’s estate will file a wrongful death action now, joining other player’s families who have filed following the deaths of players like Dave Duerson and Shane Dronett. Easterling is also the third player who played safety between the late 70′s and 80′s to commit suicide after showing signs of CTE (Duerson and Andre Waters).
[photo via US Presswire]
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