USA Today (AP)
NEW YORK (AP) — Mark Gastineau made an emotional plea to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to help him and former players who are dealing with what he claims are football-related health issues.
The former New York Jets star said during a radio interview on 710 WOR Radio in New York that aired Thursday night that he wants ailing players to be taken care of by the NFL. The 61-year-old Gastineau announced last year that he was diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and believes the conditions are the result of brain trauma from playing in the NFL for 10 seasons.
“I want the NFL to treat people right,” Gastineau said during the interview. “They’ve got to. They have to.”
Gastineau said Goodell told him when they talked at a Jets game over a year ago that he should let him know if he needs anything.
“The Commissioner told me, he said, ‘Listen, Mark, you know what? You need anything, let me know,'” Gastineau told host Pete McCarthy. “He was my ball boy. I treated him great. He told me. … Hey, Roger Goodell, treat people right.”
An NFL spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on Gastineau’s statements.
Gastineau is the Jets’ career sacks leader and was one of the NFL’s most recognizable stars because of his entertaining dances after taking down quarterbacks for New York from 1979-88. He and Goodell have known each other since the early 1980s, when Goodell interned in the Jets’ public relations department.
“I want to hold you to your promise, Roger Goodell,” Gastineau said. “You said, ‘Anything I need! I want the players to be treated right.”
Gastineau, who was joined by his wife JoAnn and lawyer Jason Luckasevic, began to cry during the interview when he spoke of his daily struggles to get out of bed and remember people’s names.
“My brain isn’t the same,” he said. “My wife, she and I used to go around and do yard work,” Gastineau said while crying. “But you know what? She does everything now for me. … It’s not good, it’s not good.
“When I’m laying in bed until 3, 4 or 5 (p.m.), it’s not good. There will be days I get up and I’m good. … My wife will tell you, she helps me get out of bed … and she’ll help me remember names. I used to think I was all that, I did. But you know what? I was nothing. You know why? Because of what happened to me.”
Gastineau, who said he routinely cracked his and other players’ helmets during big hits in practices and games, dabbled in boxing after retiring from football and had 17 professional fights. He is a plaintiff in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL, but has not received any money as a result. JoAnn Gastineau said NFL doctors questioned her husband’s dementia diagnosis, but approved it in October after eight months. She said the NFL sent a notice to Luckasevic 30 days later saying it was appealing the settlement again for Gastineau’s Parkinson’s diagnosis.
“The NFL is wrong,” Gastineau said. “The NFL is wrong, they’re wrong. I’m not telling them to give me zillions of dollars. I don’t want zillions of dollars. I just want to be treated with respect.”