Emotional Mark Gastineau wants NFL 'to treat people right'

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Friday, March 9, 2018

Former New York Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, who revealed last year that he's battling serious brain issues, broke down sobbing during a radio interview Thursday night in which he begged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to help ailing former players.

"I want the NFL to treat people right," Gastineau told host Pete McCarthy during an interview on WOR radio. "I want to hold you to your promise, Roger Goodell. You said, 'Anything I need!' ... I want the players to be treated right."

Gastineau, 61, who entered the league in 1979, said he has known Goodell since the early 1980s, when Goodell was a public relations intern with the Jets. Gastineau referred to him as "my ball boy." They developed a friendship, according to Gastineau, who said he spoke with Goodell more than a year ago at a game.

"The commissioner told me, he said, 'Listen, Mark, you know what? You need anything, let me know.' He was my ball boy. I treated him great. He told me. Hey, Roger Goodell, treat people right."

Gastineau, accompanied by his wife and lawyer for the interview, said he's a plaintiff in the concussion suit against the NFL but has yet to receive any money. He said he presented his medical case to the league, and it was rejected.

A year ago, Gastineau, one of the NFL's most prolific pass-rushers in the 1980s, said on WOR that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. He believes it was the result of brain trauma from 10 years in the NFL.

During Thursday night's interview, Gastineau became emotional when describing how his daily life has been impacted by his brain diseases.

"My wife, she and I used to go around and do yard work," Gastineau said. "But you know what? She does everything now for me.

"It's not good, it's not good," he continued, crying. "When I'm laying in bed until three, four, or five [in the afternoon], it's not good. There will be days I get up and I'm good. ... My wife will tell you, she helps me get out of bed ... and she'll help me remember names."

A member of the Jets' celebrated "New York Sack Exchange" line, Gastineau was one of the league's biggest stars in the 1980s. He retired abruptly in 1988 and became a professional boxer. He had 17 fights.

"I used to think I was all that -- I did. But you know what? I was nothing. You know why? Because of what happened to me, and I'll tell you this much:

"The NFL is wrong. The NFL is wrong. They're wrong. I'm not telling them to give me zillions of dollars. I don't want zillions of dollars. I want to be treated with respect."

The NFL didn't immediately respond for comment.