Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are legitimizing a medical scam artist

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If there were ever a time for the National Football League to carefully understand and respect the boundary between legitimate medicine and quackery, that time would be now: The League has come under heated criticism for how it handles concussions, and there's growing evidence that the frequent blows to the head inherent to the sport have led to suicides and dementia among former players. All of which makes it rather shocking that the NFL has allowed Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to enter into a generous business arrangement with a quack who has profited off of concussion pseudoscience.

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The Boston Globe has a deep, important dive into the relationship between Brady and his "body coach," Alex Guerrero — and the rather sweet setup Guerrero has won himself at the Patriots team complex at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Brady, who, at 38, is playing some of the best football of his career, appears convinced that this is at least in part due to the advice and guidance of Guerrero, who markets himself as a wellness guru and alternative-health practitioner. He has so much faith in Guerrero, in fact, that they're business partners in Brady's company TB12 Sports Therapy, which has an office next to the stadium in Foxboro (Guerrero is also the godfather of Brady's).

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Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are legitimizing a medical scam artist
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady arrives at federal court to appeal the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The problem is that the term "checkered past" doesn't begin to capture Guerrero's biography. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission forced him to stop selling Neurosafe, a drink he claimed prevents concussions, which Brady once promoted (Spoiler: There's no reason to think it or any other ingested substancecan prevent concussions); he's also been sanctioned by the FTC for "marketing a beverage made largely of organic greens that he falsely claimed could help prevent or cure cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes." In addition, he "falsely portrayed himself as a medical doctor and lied that he had obtained a bachelor's degree in biology," when he actually has a degree in traditional Chinese medicine from a now-defunct university, and is accused by those who have done business with him in the past of bilking them out of tens of thousands of dollars. Even just including the falsehoods Guerrero himself has acknowledged during his wranglings with the authorities, there's some very damning stuff here:

He also said in a deposition that he had once falsely claimed to have sold a company for $500 million to Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic."

To a certain extent, Brady has the right to enter into business partnerships with any quack he wants, as long as he himself doesn't break the law. The problem is when he drags his team and his league into it. Here's the key bit from the article:

Guerrero's past has not dissuaded the Patriots from forging a business relationship with the company he owns with Brady, the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, at the Patriots Place complex adjacent to Gillette Stadium. Since the center opened in 2013, the team has paid the company for Guerrero and his staff to provide treatment services and nutritional advice to multiple Patriots players.

The Globe did not determine how many players Guerrero and his staff have treated or how much money the Patriots have paid Brady and Guerrero's company. The team and the two principals all declined to comment.


Some of Guerrero's former associates also wondered why Brady and the Patriots would want to forge financial relationships with an entrepreneur whose history of legal trouble includes business partners accusing him of fraud.

The article notes that despite complaints from the Patriots' actual training and medical staff, the team has set aside "a room at Gillette Stadium for him to treat players away from the regular medical and training staffs." Guerrero gets $200.

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A major focus of the Globe article is the financial implications, from a salary-cap perspective, of the team effectively paying Brady (through his TB12 company) for Guerrero's services. That's certainly an interesting question for the experts, but I'd argue that what's much more noteworthy and damaging here is the extent to which the NFL is lending legitimacy to a figure who has pushed so much irresponsible "medicine." Guerrero, who already hit the jackpot by developing such a close relationship with Brady, is only going to benefit further from being able to tout the fact that he "treats" NFL players.

The NFL can't really do anything about Brady's affiliation with Guerrero. What it can do is mitigate the damage by distancing itself from him. After all, there's a high likelihood for very real harm here, for the publicity Guerrero has gained from his Patriots affiliation to lead more people to fork over their money to him.

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Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are legitimizing a medical scam artist
Sergio Brown #38 of the Jacksonville Jaguars takes the field prior to a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at EverBank Field on August 14, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants catches a touchdown in front of Jairus Byrd #31 of the New Orleans Saints during the third quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: DeMarco Murray #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles leaps over Brandon Carr #39 of the Dallas Cowboys in the third quarter on September 20, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 20-10. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown during NFL game action as Aaron Williams #23 of the Buffalo Bills tries to make the tackle at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Jermaine Kearse #15 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a catch against Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 30: Taiwan Jones #22 of the Oakland Raiders tries to catch the ball in the endzone while covered by Chris Clemons #29 of the Arizona Cardinals at Coliseum on August 30, 2015 in Oakland, California. The play was called back for a penalty and did not count. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 27: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by Janoris Jenkins #21 of the St. Louis Rams after making a catch in the first quarter at the Edward Jones Dome on September 27, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 6: Jesse James #81 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by Darius Butler #20 (not pictured) of the Indianapolis Colts as Mike Adams #29 of the Indianapolis Colts defends in the first quarter of the game at Heinz Field on December 6, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Aller/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 11: Ty Montgomery #88 of the Green Bay Packers does the 'Lambeau Leap' after running in a 31 yard touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in the first quarter at Lambeau Field on October 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 18: The Green Bay Packers huddle in the fourth quarter of the 2015 NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on January 18, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: The Washington Redskins are introduced before playing the New Orleans Saints at FedExField on November 15, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 47-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 08: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drops back during a game against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
DETROIT MI - DECEMBER 3: Richard Rodgers #82 of the Green Bay Packers catches a fourth quarter touchdown to win the game 27-23 over the Detroit Lions on December 3 2015 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 11: Wide receiver Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots dives into the endzone to score on a 59 yard touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of the NFL game at AT&T Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is surrounded by the media after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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