Royal Palm Beach’s Rose Stabler, Kenny’s widow, files suit vs. NFL

Royal Palm Beach’s Rose Stabler, widow of former Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame quarterback Kenny Stabler, filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL on Friday, seeking unspecified damages on behalf of living, retired and deceased players and their families due to brain disease associated with football.

Quarterback Ken Stabler (on his knees) throws the winning TD pass despite Vern Den Herder of the Dolphins. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Quarterback Ken Stabler (on his knees) throws the winning TD pass despite Vern Den Herder of the Dolphins. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Kenny Stabler died at age 69 on July 8 of colon cancer. An autopsy revealed Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been found on the brains of numerous other deceased NFL players.

Rose Stabler’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, was amended onto a recent suit filed by former Detroit Lions player Tracy Scroggins and includes former NFL quarterbacks Danny Gorrer and Quinn Gray.

Rose Stabler, a former Miss Alabama and forecaster on several networks including CNN, moved to Royal Palm Beach and served as a polo photographer in Wellington.

Ken Stabler during a radio broadcast in Alabama in 2007. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

Ken Stabler during a radio broadcast in Alabama in 2007. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

Her suit alleges that as the wife of a player suffering from CTE, she was exposed to “resulting depression, abuse of alcohol, anger outbursts, memory loss, lack of executive decision-making ability, brain malfunction, and the resulting emotional, mental, physical and economic abuse of her for 31 years.”

The NFL reached a settlement with thousands of plaintiffs in a class-action suit, but under terms of the deal, Stabler’s family didn’t benefit because his CTE was discovered after April 22, 2015. The alleges that without the cutoff date, the Stabler family would have been entitled to nearly $1 million.

“He played 15 seasons in the NFL, gave up his body and, apparently, now his mind,” Alexa Stabler, Kenny’s daughter, told The New York Times early this year. “And to see the state that he was in physically and mentally when he died, and to learn that despite all the energy and time and resources he gave to football — and not that he played the game for free, he made money, too — without the knowledge that this is where he would end up, physically and cognitively, and for the settlement to say you get nothing? It’s hard not to be angry.”

Friday’s filing covers those who weren’t part of that suit and asks for monitoring of past and current players for head trauma because the NFL “has failed to properly, reasonably and safely monitor, test or otherwise study” the issue on its own.

It also requests a trust fund be established for any players — past, current or future — who need medical monitoring.

Kenny Stabler will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, this summer.

To South Floridians, Stabler, nicknamed “The Snake,” is best remembered as the player most responsible for the demise of the Miami Dolphins’ dynasty of the early 1970s.

In the 1974 playoffs, Stabler through a legendary 8-yard touchdown pass to running back Clarence Davis in the final seconds of a 28-26 victory over the Dolphins that ended their quest for three consecutive Super Bowl championships, which would be a record even today.

The play, known as the “Sea of Hands” because Davis was swarmed by Dolphins Mike Kolen, Larry Ball and Tim Foley, is one of the most-replayed highlights each postseason.

Rose Stabler’s suit, like other CTE-related complaints filed against the league, alleges that the NFL knew or should have known the risks entailed with playing football and warned players and parents they could risk long-term brain injury, comparing the situation to the tobacco industry’s denials of a link to cancer.

“The Defendant carelessly failed to take reasonable steps to develop appropriate and necessary steps to alert players to their risk of long-term neurogenic illness,” the suit alleges.

It also says, “The NFL knew that if the message — FOOTBALL CAUSES BRAIN DAMAGE — was crystallized, its lifeblood — the moms of football-playing adolescents — could be in jeopardy,” the suit alleges. “Enter the manufacture of doubt.”

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