Friday, October 19, 2007

WWE Lawyer McDevitt 'Not Going to Dignify the Crap' About Chris Benoit's Concussions

[cross-posted to the WRESTLING BABYLON Blog,]

An extraordinary article in the Canadian magazine Macleans, "The Concussion Time Bomb," discusses in depth the possibility, recently raised by Chris Benoit's father Michael and former wrestler Chris Nowinski's Sports Legacy Institute, that mental impairment caused by brain trauma might be a cause of Chris Benoit's homicidal and suicidal rampage in June. The story can be viewed at

What is most extraordinary about the Macleans piece is not the concussion research itself (which is formidable and, at a minimum, interesting), but writer Steve Maich's ability to do something that few have accomplished: he made World Wrestling Entertainment lawyer Jerry McDevitt, ordinarily the smoothest of spin doctors, lose it.

McDevitt, a partner in the Pittsburgh law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, tells Macleans that until the Nowinski group reveals more about the science behind the postmortem examination of Benoit's brain, "we're not going to dignify the crap they're peddling." This is a bit of a departure -- one with tones of exasperation -- from the statement WWE issued after ABC's Nightline broke the story of Michael Benoit's close consideration of the multiple-concussion-syndrome explanation for his son's behavior.

McDevitt goes on to say in Macleans that "[t]he entire notion that the WWE could be sued because Chris Benoit garrotted his wife and killed his son is absurd in the extreme, legally and factually, whether he had concussions or whether he didn't. People get concussions every day in sports, and nobody goes out and kills their wife and child. It's no excuse for murder. Give me a break. Everybody knows it's not a side effect of concussions that you commit murder, for Christ's sake."

The word from inside Titan Tower in Stamford, Connecticut, since the day after the Benoit murder-suicide, WWE has been groping for PR angles that would make Chris Benoit come off as more sympathetic. (The sloppily exploited revelation that his son Dan had Fragile X Syndrome was one early example.) The reason is that the company, which has removed Benoit from DVD's and other merchandise lines because of image concerns, would like to resume exploiting his impressive archive of classic wrestling matches.

But the latest McDevitt remarks indicate that WWE is now less concerned about that and more concerned about defending a possible lawsuit by Michael Benoit.

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