Bill Cowher and the NFL “Heads Up” Program

bill cowher pic

The NFL is conquering new ground with regard to player safety, particularly in the realm of concussion prevention.  Coincidentally, this is coming on the heels of a near billion dollar judgment against the organization.  Go figure.  Sometimes an industry suddenly becomes proactive when faced with effective litigation and colossal financial loss.  It quickly finds its moral center.

The NFL had been warned about player concussion issues for decades.  But now it takes them seriously.  This scenario worries me because it closely resembles my concerns regarding a dominipede (multiple, simultaneous human stampedes likely impacting the 1 p.m. slate of games).

In 2012, I warned NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and every NFL owner about the outdated state of emergency evacuation protocol and the prospect of an artificially generated stampede.  Unfortunately, because it remains a hypothetical, there are no immediate consequences for failing to address the issue.  There’s little incentive for taking action.  Plus, the federal government won’t touch it.  The cons outweigh the pros.

So it descends into a dangerous game of intentional ignorance and complacence.  Even worse, the few who have had the courage to engage me often offer flimsy justifications, excuses and ad hominem distractions for their inaction.

“We have an excellent track record when it comes to venue safety.”
“Our stadium cell coverage isn’t that great.”
“The circumstances you’re describing wouldn’t trigger a mass panic.”
“These stampedes you speak of have never happened.”
“If it’s such a big concern, why isn’t anyone else taking action?”

Yes.  All these points could have merit.  But they all dodge the issue.  And they’re all regrettably consistent with the catch-22 that looms over NFL stadiums like a biblical plague.

I’m inquiring about a very specific facet of emergency evacuation protocol — the notion that a legitimate evacuation order would NEVER originate from a personal cell phone.  Some in the industry are aware of this.  Many are not.  But the vast majority of fans have never even considered it.  This makes them incredibly susceptible to the prospect of a malicious hoax.

It has become apparent that no NFL team is going to voluntarily step up and share this tiny snippet of information with stadium attendees.  The real reason is ugly.  Everything is linked to potential litigation and plausibility deniability.  It’s not about life and limb.  It’s all about money.  A lot of money.  The premise is intrinsically embedded in the financial stability and survival of the entire NFL.

Team management, ownership and NFL governance aren’t going to be proactive.  It’s much like they treated the concussion issue: ignoring the problem until they were held financially responsible.

It’s necessary for an individual to come forth and address the issue.

The message could be complex:

  • Explaining how all in-use stadiums are technologically and physically connected through real-time, real-world events.
  • Discussing how people could be manipulated by a viral blitzkrieg (information saturation).
  • Engaging in a frank discussion about widespread panic and herding instincts.

We at AGSAF believe the message is simple:

  • Stadium emergency evacuation orders do NOT come from cell phones.
  • If you get an evacuation order or panic-inducing information, it’s almost certainly a hoax.

Daytime talk show host Dr. Phil has a penchant for saying, “This situation needs a hero.”

On March 24, 2014, a potential hero sent me an email on behalf of the NFL “Heads Up” concussion awareness campaign.  That person was former NFL head coach and CBS analyst Bill Cowher.  I think Cowher would be an ideal choice to broach the subject of the dominipede.  His Super Bowl win puts him in very exclusive company.  He has a strong blue collar work ethic and gritty straightforwardness.  He has bridged the gap from player, to coach, to executive, to television personality.  Most important, head coaches are responsible for making big, final decisions.  They are accustomed to being held accountable.

Whether it’s Cowher or not, this person would need to be unwilling to back down.  Because you’ll likely be ostracized.  Trust me.  Even though it’s a common sense, simple message about public safety, you will be incurring the wrath of the entire U.S. government, private industry and venue management both large and small.  Government is generally averse to major change.  It prefers the status quo.

They call it the status quo for a reason.  The reason being… it’s usually the path of a coward.  Love him or hate him, his name may sound like the word “coward” but believe me, Bill Cowher ain’t no coward.

Let’s parlay the NFL’s recent commitment to player safety and extend that same concern to fan safety.  The concussions that take place on the grassy turf could just as easily occur on the cold concrete.

Let me put this in more tactical terms for any NFL owners and executives within earshot.  The financial toll of a dominipede would easily be in the billions.  If you think the concussion settlement was bad news, I suggest you take a long, hard look at the AGSAF website.  A friendly warning though — it shakes things up a bit.  If you don’t think the material is compelling, you’ll likely need your head examined.