Archive for April, 2011

Senator Udall No-Comments Query on Investigation of Rigging of Concussion Tests

This morning I faxed the following to Senator Tom Udall’s press secretary, Amber McDowell. There has been no response.

Please provide a statement from Senator Udall on whether federal investigations of football helmet safety should be expanded to include investigations of sports concussion testing.

This query is prompted by reports over the past week — on my blog, at FoxSports.com, and elsewhere — that some National Football League players are known to have cheated the “ImPACT” concussion test at both ends: by deliberately doing poorly on baseline testing and by taking Ritalin to artificially elevate alertness post-concussion.

The helmet and concussion-testing questions are linked because Dr. Joseph Maroon both participated in the NFL-funded study used in hype by the Riddell helmet company, and developed and co-owns the ImPACT software, which is marketed to many sports leagues, including youth programs.

Irv Muchnick

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‘Blumenthal backs “misclassification” bill but ducks questions about WWE’ (Manchester Journal Inquirer)

Reprinted in full with permission.


Blumenthal backs ‘misclassification’ bill but ducks questions about WWE

by Don Michak

Manchester Journal Inquirer

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, flanked Monday by state labor Commissioner Glenn Marshall and a bevy of construction industry and labor representatives, trumpeted his co-sponsorship of a bill that would protect workers from being “misclassified” as independent contractors or part-timers by their employers.

But the former state attorney general — who as a Democratic candidate last year questioned whether his Republican opponent, Linda McMahon, had done exactly that as the former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. — ducked when asked to comment on a misclassification audit of WWE reportedly initiated by the state Labor Department.

“This federal law is about industrywide and countrywide violations of basic fairness in misclassification, which is cheating, plain and simple,” Blumenthal responded. “It’s not about any one business or any one industry. It’s about construction, but it’s also about a variety of other areas where workers, honest businesses, taxpayers, and ordinary citizens are all cheated as a result of this practice.

“We’re going to fight for this proposal, regardless of allegations against any one business,” he added.

Meanwhile, Marshall, the former carpenters union official named three months ago by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to head the Labor Department, also dodged when asked about the reported WWE probe.

“At this time I’m not in a position to divulge anything on that,” he said. “If there is an investigation, we can’t report on it. There are protections in place within the department — some of it’s federal and some of it’s state law — where we can’t divulge things when investigations are ongoing.”

Asked why, if he were bent on increasing public awareness of “misclassification,” he would keep secret the name of any company engaged in the practice, Marshall responded: “This is a broader venue that we’re talking about here and I’d rather not get specific about if there is an investigation ongoing.”

The officials, speaking at the Wethersfield office of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, characterized misclassification as a means for unscrupulous employers to cut costs and avoid contributions for unemployment and workers compensation.

They said such workers don’t qualify for minimum wage and overtime compensation and aren’t protected by anti-discrimination and health and safety laws. Businesses that properly classify their employees are put at a competitive disadvantage, they said.

The Labor Department was reported to have begun a misclassification audit of WWE in September, although one department source has since said it had become focused on whether the company underpaid unemployment insurance taxes.

McMahon, who before launching her Senate bid had headed the company that classifies its wrestlers and other employees as independent contractors, initially said she was unaware of any audit.

A WWE spokesman, meanwhile, denied any corporate wrongdoing and told the Stamford Advocate that the state had “curiously” begun auditing the company as McMahon made her first run for public office.

The McMahon campaign subsequently suggested Blumenthal was behind the probe, and he responded that while he had worked with a task force looking for ways to reduce the practice, he was not involved in the Labor Department investigation.

Blumenthal on Monday again emphasized his work on behalf of a state law signed into law last spring that increased the fine from $300 per incident to $300 a day per violation for employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors.

“That law has been strengthened as a result of the report that was done,” he said. “I was co-chair of the committee and I’ve been working on this problem for years.”

The freshman senator said the proposed Payroll Fraud Prevention Act drafted by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, would “take Connecticut’s law as a model” and establish misclassification as separate federal violation.

He said it also would set a $1,100 fine for each violation and a $5,000 fine for each repeated violation, require employers to keep records and notify workers exactly how they are classified, and protect workers who report violations.

Muchnick Interviewed About WWE on Connecticut Radio Friday

Irvin Muchnick, author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, will be interviewed by host Larry Rifkin on “Talk of the Town” on WATR Radio, 1320 AM, in Waterbury, Connecticut, on Friday, April 29, at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time (8:30 a.m. Pacific).

The live interview, scheduled for 30 minutes, also will stream at http://watr.com.

Anticipated topics include Linda McMahon’s widely assumed 2012 campaign for a Connecticut U.S. Senate seat, the turmoil at World Wrestling Entertainment (including the resignation of long-time board member Lowell Weicker), and the state Labor Department audit of WWE for independent contractor misclassification and the parallel federal legislation proposed by Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Web: http://muchnick.net

Blog: https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/irvmuch

YouTube: http://youtube.com/WrestlingBabylon

Media inquiries: media@muchnick.net

#####

Ex-NFL Player Matt Bowen: I Sandbagged My Concussion Test

Continuing last week’s line of reporting from this blog and from FoxSports.com’s Alex Marvez:

“Why players ‘cheat’ the concussion test”

by Matt Bowen

National Football Post

http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Why-players-cheat-the-concussion-test.html

WWE Lawyer McDevitt: Company Meets ‘Most of’ Independent Contractor Requirements

Senator Richard Blumenthal will hold a press conference today at the Connecticut Construction Industries Association in Wethersfield to promote federal legislation he is co-sponsoring to curb abuse by employers of the independent contractor classification. The state Labor Department has an ongoing investigation of alleged misclassification practices by WWE, whose co-founder and former chief executive, Linda McMahon, was defeated by Blumenthal in last year’s election.

In an article in the February issue of American Lawyer magazine, WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt was quoted as saying the company “covers medical bills for those hurt in the ring and fulfills ‘most of’ the tests used to define independent contractors.”

See http://muchnick.net/americanlawyer.pdf.

 

Irv Muchnick

Dr. Maroon’s ImPACT Testing Part of ‘Hocus Pocus Concussion Remedy’: Author-Blogger Matt Chaney

Matt Chaney’s piece today, “Critics, Evidence Debunk ‘Concussion Testing’ in Football,” suggests that I have been far too kind in my criticisms of the ImPACT system developed by National Football League and World Wrestling Entertainment doctor Joseph Maroon.

The article is at http://blog.4wallspublishing.com/2011/04/23/critics-evidence-debunk-concussion-testing-in-football.aspx. Some highlights:

  • A peer-reviewed article in Current Sports Medicine Reports by Loyola University’s Dr. Christopher Randolph details ImPACT’s “glaring faults,” with unacceptable rates of false-positives and false-negatives.
  • Chaney: “An overwhelming majority of journalists, politicians, educators and football experts ignore the accumulating evidence rebuking concussion testing as invalid and unreliable, choosing instead to endorse the quick-fix notion and push it for mandate by law.”
  • Generally speaking, the neuropsych tests on the market “are unsuitable for clinical work with concussions,” according to Dr. Lester Mayers of Pace University.
  • Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy in athletes in contact sports, says, “ImPACT testing is not a diagnosis tool…. Using [computerized] testing in the acute phase of injury can actually make the symptoms worse.”

Chaney also takes a shot at Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute and Boston University’s Dr. Robert Cantu; the blogger calls them “current purveyors” of the theory that modifying the behavior and tackling techniques of football players can fundamentally alter the public health risks of football.

Irv Muchnick

AP Story on Blumenthal Independent Contractor Initiative Cites WWE

“Worker misclassification came up during Blumenthal’s 2010 Senate campaign when it was revealed World Wrestling Entertainment was being investigated by the state for possible violations. Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate, is the former CEO of WWE. McMahon at the time questioned whether the audit was politically motivated.”

Full report from the Associated Press is headlined “Blumenthal to discuss worker misclassification” at the Stamford Advocate: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Blumenthal-to-discuss-worker-misclassification-1349558.php#ixzz1KMZeXjhs

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