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Football

How the News Botched the Rayfield Wright Obit

The New York Times addressed his dementia in its first paragraph.
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Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Rayfield Wright played offensive line for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s in the Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor. He died last week at the age of 76, after suffering a severe seizure. Here’s something super important about Wright: he had more concussions than he could count, and he was diagnosed in 2012 with dementia.

On Thursday, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News published a 35-paragraph obituary on Wright. He saved the dementia detail for the 35th paragraph. Here was that last paragraph in its entirety:

“In the spring of 2012, nearly six years after his induction, Wright was diagnosed with dementia.”

The New York Times approached Wright’s death a bit differently. Richard Sandomir’s 25-paragraph obituary began:

“Rayfield Wright, a tough, agile Hall of Fame offensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys who was on five Super Bowl teams in the 1970s, then suffered from dementia for at least a decade, which he believed was most likely caused by repeated blows to the head, died on Thursday. He was 76.”

The whole first part of the story is about what football did to Wright’s brain. And that’s the way it ends:

“‘I’m scared,’ Wright said of his dementia in the 2014 Times interview. ‘I don’t want this to happen.’ Wiping away a tear, he added, ‘I just want to know why this is happening to me.'”

The way the Times made the brain injuries the crux of its obituary and the way the News buried them says a lot about the two newspapers. Sometime D Magazine contributor Sean Mitchell brought this to my attention with a post on his blog. It’ll take you about two minutes to read and is well worth your time.

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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