Dr. Mehmet Oz is firing back at criticism over his rhapsodic National Football League promotional ad, which L.A. Times reporter Michael Hiltzik called “shameless shilling.”
“It wasn’t a paid endorsement,” Dr. Oz told AdAge. “I didn’t have a reason to do it besides [that] I have an affinity for the game.
Dr. Oz also insisted he wasn’t downplaying the much-publicized concussion risks in football (and accompanying brain damage), and pointed out there are risks in any recreational activity.
“The real decision is: Do you want to replace football with antiquing?” he said. “It may not be the solution that a lot of Americans want to go with. I think there’s a middle ground.”
In his NFL promo video, Dr. Oz proudly recounts the day his son tackled an opponent head-first at a high-school football game.
“When my son Oliver told us he wanted to play football, we were thrilled. It was a rite of passage,” said Dr. Oz. “The game started, and sure enough, he tackled this kid. My jaw dropped and then the loudspeaker said, ‘Tackle, Oliver Oz.’ That, I think, is a memory he will never forget. Certainly his father won’t.”
Dr. Oz, a father of four, called football a “rite of passage” that had transformed his gawky teenage son into a real man. His enthusiastic endorsement of football couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Just days earlier, a new study came out that concluded a concussion-proof football helmet does not exist. Earlier this week, former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre revealed he is suffering severe memory loss from years of hard tackles and concussions.
And in August 2013, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to 18,000 retired football players after being targeted in a massive class-action lawsuit alleging the NFL had deliberately concealed evidence of the link between football-related head injuries and long-term brain damage.
The lawsuit was preceded by the high-profile suicides of several former NFL stars, including Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and Ray Easterling. All of them had complained of concussion-related depression, early-onset dementia, insomnia, and memory loss before their suicides.
Dr. Oz, who received two tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII (set for February 2014) for doing the promo ad, said his ad was not a wholehearted endorsement of anything other than his love of the game.
And he stands by his opinion that football transformed his son into a confident young man. “[The change in him] was absolutely remarkable,” Dr. Oz gushed.
“It was like going through Marine Corps Boot Camp. He just came back a different kid with a lot more confidence in himself and the knowledge that the only thing that could hold him back was him, which is ultimately what I learned by playing myself.”