Former WWE Hardcore champion / “Tough Enough” winner turned concussion trauma advocate Christopher Notwinzki aka Chris Harvard has appeared in this space on prior occasions, though it appears his once-contentious relationship with his former employer has been repaired. The Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler reports that Nowinzki’s Concussion Legacy Foundation has received nearly $3 million from the WWE, donations that just happen to coincide with Nowinski’s dialing down the rhetoric about the Bristol, CT wrestling promotion’s culpability in shortening the lifespan of his former co-workers.
Rene Goguen, aka Rene Dupree, who was featured in Nowinski’s 2006 book, “Head Games,’’ because of a brain injury he suffered in the ring, is among several former WWE performers who believe Nowinski has adopted a more passive approach to investigating CTE in professional wrestlers than he did with football players. They said they suspect a potential conflict of interest involving the WWE’s donations to Nowinski’s foundation, as did some nonprofit specialists.
“It certainly seems like a situation where you’re asking the foxes to help guard the chicken coop,’’ said Marc Pollick, president and founder of the Giving Back Fund, a nonprofit that for 20 years has created and managed charitable foundations for athletes, entertainers, and corporations. “If you’re partnering with a company that is facing those kinds of [concussion lawsuits], where’s the firewall?’’
WWE not only sponsors the Concussion Legacy Foundation but has a seat on the foundation’s board of directors that is held by Paul Levesque, an executive vice president of WWE who performs under the name Triple H and is the son-in-law of the company’s majority owner, Vince McMahon.
in 2010, Nowinski lashed out at WWE after one of his former tag team partners, Lance McNaught, aka Lance Cade, died at 29. Nowinski accused WWE of fostering an “absolutely unsafe’’ environment in the ring, encouraging steroid use, and contributing to the abuse of painkillers by its performers. WWE countered with a seven-point attack on Nowinski’s credibility.
But now all seems forgiven. Nowinski credits WWE with “making considerable changes to their concussion programs and education in the last decade that provide for a significantly safer environment.’’ And he disavowed his other 2010 accusations, saying “they were driven by emotion and the pain I felt from the death” of McNaught.