The “Savagery on Sunday” trial

In October 1955 Life magazine tackled the issue of NFL violence head-on with an exposé titled:

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 4.08.34 PM

 

Not surprisingly, two of the players the magazine identified as “bad boys,” middle guard Bucko Kilroy and linebacker Wayne Robinson of the Eagles, brought $250,000 libel suits against the publisher, Time, Inc. This led to one of the more entertaining — and educational — trials in league history.

The case wasn’t tried until 1958, by which time Kilroy and Robinson were retired. Here’s an excerpt from Kilroy’s testimony that deals with an episode during the ’48 preseason, when he kicked Bears guard Ray Bray in the groin. Keep in mind this is the future general manager of the Patriots talking:

In the end, Life‘s “evidence” was too shaky to hold up. Kilroy and Robinson didn’t walk away with $250,000 for having their characters impugned, but they were awarded $11,600 each, which is more than either ever made in a season. More important, as far as the NFL is concerned: no publication since has gone after it so aggressively on the problem of dirty play. It’s just a hard accusation to prove, given the nature of the sport.

Down the road, I’ll post more testimony from the trial, which lasted eight days and saw Commissioner Bert Bell and fellow Hall of Famers Otto Graham, Doak Walker and Em Tunnell called to the stand. You haven’t lived until you’ve read the following words, straight from the commish’s lips:

I don’t read the rules too thoroughly. . . . I couldn’t study those rules in a hundred years. They are technical in every way else.