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NFL Investigated; Deadly Brain-Eating Ameba; Good Things Happening for Cleveland; Bystanders Rescue Children from Hot Car

Aired July 15, 2014 - 08:30   ET




The DEA is launching an investigation into explosive claims that the NFL drugged up its players to keep them on the field. The investigation comes after former players sued the league claiming they were given drugs like candy with no warning about the consequences. What will happen now? What should happen now? Let's bring in Mike Pesca, host of the Slate Podcast "The Gist with Mike Pesca," and an NPR contributor, and David Cornwell, a sports attorney and a partner from Gordon and Reese LLP.

Pesca, are you still a contributor with NPR, by the way?


CUOMO: Very good. I want to make sure I get that one.

PESCA: Once in a while.


CUOMO: So I think here's the big deal, right? We got the concussion lawsuit and that seems to have some fertile ground about, you knew more about what happens when these guys crush nuts than you were telling them and now you'd better do something about it. Do you see as strong a case when it comes to the voluntary use of meds to stay on the field?

PESCA: That's the crux of the question. And I don't see as strong a case, but that doesn't mean they don't have a case. So with the concussion lawsuit, first of all, it was settled and then there were complications. It's not - it's not settled now. It got thrown out and they have to rework it. But, you know, it wasn't won (ph). So just because the NFL settled, doesn't necessarily mean they thought that they would lose in a case. And so there are all these legal hurdles to clear. It's unclear if this drug suit would clear those hurdles.

Then there's also the issue of contributory negligence, right, which is, I think, what you were getting at. So with the concussion suit, there's a ton of evidence. The book, the PBS series, "Game of Shadows" about all this evidence the NFL had. They sat on it. They kind of made up doctor panels with unqualified doctors. Those does seem to be a lot of suppression of evidence.

Is that there with prescription drugs? I don't know. I mean they could have done a lot of things wrong. They could have been - this is what the DEA is looking into. They could have been prescribing them totally off label and willie nilly and that's bad and maybe that would leave the NFL on a hook. But it does seem a little different from the concussions.

BOLDUAN: Mike, on the most basic level, is this - is this something that was well known, that prescription pain killers were being handed out like candy and they just kind of -- we didn't talk about it for a long time?

PESCA: Absolutely, 100 percent. There's a warrior culture, a warrior mentality in the NFL, if you know this league, if you know the sport. The players are pieces of meat. The famous ones we identify with, but most of them are just sort of cannon fodder and they shoot themselves up with torridol (ph) or they pop pills. And the phrase like tick tacs, Warren Sapp said that, like candy, I mean, that comes up again and again and again. It doesn't mean they're going to win a suit.


PESCA: And it doesn't mean they didn't know some of what they were talking about. There's a lot of stuff it doesn't mean. But these guys absolutely were put in a horrible situation where it's either, all right, if you're hurt, you're out of a job, what do you do?

CUOMO: Well, David Cornwell, how do you see the DEA factoring into this situation. On the one hand, it looks impressive for the player. Oh, the DEA's looking at it. It must be something. But won't it shut up a lot of witnesses and make real concerns about liability about coming forward? I mean couldn't it complicate it as well?

DAVID CORNWELL, SPORTS ATTORNEY: It could be a complicating factor, but I actually see the DEA piece as something separate from the lawsuit. Years ago, the San Diego Chargers were investigated for handing out narcotics or prescription meds without filling out the proper paperwork. And I think the DEA will focus on whether or not the paperwork that was filled out in connection with distributing these medications to the players was properly done. That's one issue. I don't think the DEA is going to be able to reach any opinions or conclusions about whether players were properly informed, and that's what the lawsuit is all about.

Listen, there is a culture of, you can't make the club in the tub. You have to be on the field to get paid. So there's - there's this thing - there's this tension about players wanting to play, at the same time wanting to be fully informed about the risk of the medication -- long- term risk of the medications that they're taking to get on the field today. And that's what this is really about.

BOLDUAN: And, Mike, if this is so pervasive, if this has been so pervasive -

PESCA: Yes. BOLDUAN: Is it - does it -- does that mean it's not happening today since this lawsuit has been filed?

PESCA: No, that doesn't mean that at all. And just like the concussion lawsuit didn't mean that the protocols would change.


PESCA: But, you know, you also have to remember, with the concussion lawsuit, the NFL wanted to settle it because there was public outrage about it. Mothers not wanting kids maybe to play football.

BOLDUAN: Does the NFL have more of a reason to fight this one?

PESCA: I think so. They might think they have a stronger case. I just don't know yet the public outrage is there. That Charger suit, that was years ago. This has been going on for a long time. I don't know that there's the cultural shock around this issue. It's a sad story. There are victims. But will people not allow their kids to play youth football because NFL players took drugs? It doesn't seem as clear to me as the concussion lawsuit. It's also from a PR perspective --

CUOMO: It's not as clear -


CUOMO: Right. Right. And PR would be what motivates the settlement, so that matters.

PESCA: That's what I'm getting at, yes.

CUOMO: But the question also becomes just procedurally, are you going after the right person? I know the league is the pocket, but if you're saying that the doctors -


CUOMO: And the team made you play, I mean, that's really club specific. So, David, what's your take on that in terms of are -- is the league the right target for this, let's say more than individual clubs or even the players union? Why not sue the players union and say, you should have protected me from this?

CORNWELL: Well, not only is the - are -- would the clubs be involved, but these doctors are independent contractors, so their insurance or their individual practices may be called to respond to this. And it may very well be that a lawsuit is not the proper forum because in the years where there was a collective bargaining agreement in place, this probably goes to some type of grievance under the CBAs. So, frankly, I'd like to see the union step in because this is hard for a private attorney to say, but you don't want opportunistic lawyers creating claims, creating problems, all for a fee and undermining, you know, the quality of the game. I'll tell you one thing, by week 14 next week, next year, next season, you'll have players lining up to get toradal (ph) shots before they play on Sundays.

BOLDUAN: The cycle continues and the lawsuits continue. Mike Pesca, David Cornwall, thank you, guys. Thanks so much.

CORNWALL: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, a new warning from health officials about a deadly parasite lurking in warm waters. We're going to tell you where another deadly case of brain-eating amoeba has swimmers on high alert today.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: A deadly parasite is lurking in the water this summer. Kansas authorities, in fact, are warning about a rare brain-eating amoeba that kills in a matter of days. Its most recent victim, a nine-year-old girl. Hally Nicole Yust. Investigators say she picked up the parasite while she was out water skiing over the Fourth of July weekend. Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us now from Atlanta.

Tell us what you know about this.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michaela, this is an extremely rare situation, but this amoeba is extremely deadly and enters through the nose and goes right to the brain.


COHEN (voice-over): Kansas authorities are warning people about swimming in fresh water lakes and ponds, all because of a brain-eating amoeba that health officials say took the life of nine-year-old Hally Yust last week. She was an avid water skier and over the last few weeks was in four different bodies of fresh water. It's called Naegleria Flowleri. It lives in warm, standing water and even though the amoeba is rare, it can enter through the nose while in the water. It can cause a severe headache, fever, nausea and vomiting and, in most cases, death.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT MEDICAL CENTER: The amoeba then finds itself way back in our noses and then can work its way into our central nervous system, around our brains. And once it's there, it just causes destruction.

COHEN: Last summer, a 12-year-old Florida boy named Zachary Reyna contracted the infection after he went knee boarding in fresh water near his home. He later died. And a year ago, Kali Hardig, a 12-year- old girl from Little Rock, Arkansas, went for a swim and was infected by the parasite. Although her prognosis was poor, she survived. She was one of the lucky ones. Over the past 50 years, there have been just over 130 reported cases of Naegleria Flowleri infections. Only three of those people, including Kali, have survived.


PEREIRA: So frightening, Elizabeth. Give parents and family members and people that are going to be out enjoying this summer an idea of what we can do to avoid this. COHEN: Right. Well, first of all, I want to emphasize again how rare

this is. But it is something that I, as a mother, definitely think about when we go swim in these kinds of areas.


COHEN: We live in Atlanta. Very warm here. So here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

If you're swimming in warm, fresh water, the first thing you want to think about is, well, do I want to do this, especially in this really kind of warm weather. So you could just decide, hey, I don't want to swim in fresh water. The second thing is you can not put your head under the water. Swim but don't submerge your head. Also, use nose clips or hold your nose. And also, try not to stir up the sediment. All of that sediment underneath is where these amoebas lurk. But again, you know, some people might just choose not to take this risk. It really is something everyone has to decide on their own.

PEREIRA: Absolutely, its going to be hard to do that especially when summer fun comes and it's hot, you want to get in the water. Thanks for letting us know, Elizabeth. We appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, Cleveland is hot and getting hotter. From the return of LeBron James to landing the Republican National Convention. How the city has become the place to be.

CUOMO: LeBron James, RNC


PEREIRA: Right now, Cleveland does indeed rock. Perhaps if you live in Cleveland, you will always say it always rocks, but it is considered the place to be. Consider this trifecta if you will: LeBron James returning, Johnny Manziel, aka, Johnny football, the starting quarterback for the Browns and, Kate, the Ohio city was just announced as the location for the 2016 Republican Convention!

BOLDUAN: Woo hoo.

PEREIRA: It does appear, I sounded like Oprah there.


BOLDUAN: And you get a car. And you get a car.

PEREIRA: It would appear that Cleveland does indeed rock. Joining us from Cleveland, Andre Knot, a host with WTAM Radio, the flagship station for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is not excited about all this fuss about Cleveland at all. Tell us, how is Cleveland feeling?

ANDRE KNOT, WTAM RADIO HOST: Cleveland is feeling absolutely awesome right now. I think for everybody else, it used to be known the best location in the nation and finally, we can brag about that and show it to the rest of the world. It is not your grandmother and your grandfather's Cleveland anymore. There's a lot of other great things going on. I know it's easy for nationally to have the b roll of all the negative things happening here. And slowly but surely, we're breaking out of that, guys, we really are some young entrepreneurs that are really making this city somewhere fun to be.

CUOMO: How did you get LeBron James to come back to Cleveland?

BOLDUAN: What did you do?

PEREIRA: What did you do, Andre?

KNOT: Its not what I did, trust me. But I think, you know the funny thing is this isn't the Cleveland that LeBron left back in 2010. In 2010, this was still place that was economically kind of failing a little bit and kind of trying to find themselves. I think LeBron himself will be surprised at the Cleveland that he is returning to, because there's a lot of other things going on. It's nice to have Johnny Manziel, its nice to have LeBron, but I think he is going to walk back into a scenario that will brighten his day. The other thing is, a lot of people say who moves from Miami to Cleveland? We're good people. We are good, hearty people that are fun to be around. We do have a lake. It is not on fire.

CUOMO: We do have a lake.


PEREIRA: Heart, man. You have got heart.

KNOT: We do.

BOLDUAN: Andre, Andre, Andre, is there any split in the city, though? I mean, sure you're hearing it. People were very, very angry and that's a nice way of putting it.

CUOMO: Including the owner.

BOLDUAN: Including the owner. When LeBron left and he basically said good riddance, or something else.

KNOT: Yes.

We all had -- there was a lot of hard feelings obviously back in 2010. All we are known for is the video of someone burning a jersey. Only, like, three people did that but I know that it got played everywhere across the country. Yes, there were some hard feelings, but if you go back and you really look at the letter that he wrote this past Friday, and he even said towards the owner, "Who am I to hold a grudge?" I think that was well put together, whoever wrote that for LeBron or if LeBron said it, because I think that was his way of saying back to Cleveland, "Hey, if I'm not going to judge on what the owner did, don't judge me upon that. I was young, I made a mistake. And we've gone 50 years without a championship, guys, so we can get over things easier than some." Don't get me wrong. There are some people that hold some regret and some anger against him, but I think the first time he is on a fast break and he dunks and we win a big game, I think that will get pushed to the side.

PEREIRA: So maybe Cleveland will have the new hashtag forgiveness. Maybe that's the new movement .

BOLDUAN: And, so here is the question though. All of this, RNC, Johnny Manziel and football tickets and then you look at the NBA and football tickets. This is a financial injection, an economic boost for the city. All three.

KNOT: Yes, you're absolutely right. That's another part that's great about this. We have six new hotels going in downtown. We have got a ton of beautiful things that are going in downtown, but with the return of LeBron James, we have been told that it could help up to $500 million per year for our downtown, which is great. We have a medical mart that's coming up and I think 2016 when the RNC comes here, its four big days that the rest of the country can see the good parts of Cleveland. I know the easy b roll when you're nationally for TV when it comes to Cleveland. You show it bone-chilling cold, you show our team losing late, or you show our river caught on fire.


KNOT: We're going to give you guys a different look of who we are in the next couple of years.

BOLDUAN: And the wild chance, Andre, in the wild chance that if LeBron takes the Cavs into post season play, that it actually could conflict with the start of the RNC's convention, and then you have got scandal on your hands.

CUOMO: Its not that wild. The team should be solid.

KNOT: The team should be solid.

CUOMO: Kyrie Irving, got some money there, he gave you some cap space. That's not that surprising. I can't believe you're even listing the RNC as the things you're happy about when you have Manziel and LeBron. Nothing will say Cleveland like people really fighting with one another.

KNOT: And we would fight with each other, but the funny thing is when you bring up the whole, you know, could we -- could the RNC be here with the championship game or championship series, that's something that we call OIC, only in Cleveland. Everything set up so well. Then you deal with that. But we will be ready. Trust us. We want the rest of the world to know.

Even if we have to play the NBA championship outside at a court somewhere, we will do it.

PEREIRA: Okay, we're calling you when that happens, okay? We've got a deal, right here. Pinky promise.

BOLDUAN: Pinky promise.

KNOT: I will pinky promise with you. I will be ready to go. PEREIRA: Thanks, Andre.

BOLDUAN: Congrats to you and all of Cleveland.

KNOT: Thank you, guys, take care.

BOLDUAN: Coming up on NEW DAY, another instance of kids being left in a hot car, but this one is a very different ending, thanks to the power of the Good Stuff. That's coming up.


CUOMO: Great song from a band called Muse. Its time for the Good Stuff. Earlier today, we brought you the story of good samaritans who foiled a car-jacking. Do you remember that? Gave the guy a righteous beat down. Well, it turns out they are not the only bystanders who refused to just stand by.


CUOMO (voice-over): Here is the scene. Its a strip mall in Houston. A little boy and little girl left in a car in the blazing summer heat. Yes, despite everything we have heard about what's going on in Georgia. So, a group of shoppers and workers sees it, responds. What do they do? They do whatever they can to break the windows and get the kids out and they did something else. They showed mercy. The mom, who was getting her haircut, begged the crowd for forgiveness. She said it was all just a terrible mistake, promised to never do it again. The kids appeared unharmed, so the crowd did not report her. Now, you know what?


CUOMO (on camera): We will be a tad controversial, tweet us, let us know if you think they did the right thing. They certainly did the right thing by saving the kids. We turn you over now for much news to Ms. Carol Costello, a bystander doing well all the time.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, have a great day. NEWSROOM starts now.