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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Stan Chesley, Kelci Stringer

Aired July 28, 2003 - 19:46   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: With NFL training camps now under way, yesterday saw at least three players fold under the heat. One of them, Larry Smith of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was hospitalized, said to be undergoing final tests today.
Now, as this was happening, the widow of a pro football player who died from the heat in 2001 said she is filing a wrongful death suit against the NFL and a class action suit to force changes in training.

Kelci Stringer's husband, Korey, was an offensive lineman for the Vikings. Two years ago this week, the 335-pound player collapsed during practice, his body temperature more than 108 degrees.

The NFL says it operates safely, but Kelci Stringer says she wants the league to change its practice methods now.

She's about to join us from Atlanta. Her lawyer, Stan Chesley, joins us now from Cincinnati.

Stan, thank you for being with us. And as we sit here...

STAN CHESLEY, ATTORNEY FOR KELCI STRINGER: Good evening, Anderson.

COOPER: ... we expect your client to join us any second.

First of all, you had sued, I believe, in state court, the Minnesota Vikings. That case was dismissed for wrongful death. You're now suing the entire NFL. Why?

CHESLEY: Simple. The NFL case is a lot different than the Vikings case. Vikings, we had to get past the bar of worker's comp and prove almost an intentional, close to a willful misconduct. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: So you think you got -- you think this is an easier case going against the entire NFL?

CHESLEY: Well, it's not a question of easier. It is a completely different case. Anderson, there is nothing easy in this. The key here is control. Who dominates, who controls? If they can control the tensile strength of a shirt, or they can control fining a football player for having his shirt out of his pants, they need to take care of control at the camp. We have a tale of two cities. Candidly, when the fans are there and there's 80,000 people cheering, and a player goes down, there is ambulances, there's carts, there's trainers, everybody kneeling down.

But at the training camp, there is no -- the league does not care. They've made no changes.

Let me quote what Commissioner Tagliabue said in his deposition. "Have you ever ruled out conducting an investigation into the death of Korey Stringer on behalf of the NFL?" That was in two -- in November 2002, a year and a half later. And his answer was, "At this point," mind you, November 2002, a year and a half later, "I don't see what purpose it would serve." They've made...

COOPER: Let me bring in...

CHESLEY: They've made it...

COOPER: Let me bring in your -- Sorry, go ahead. Let me just bring in your client, Kelci Stringer.

CHESLEY: Great.

COOPER: She just arrived.

CHESLEY: Terrific.

COOPER: Kelci, thank you for being with us. Sorry about the loss of your husband. We appreciate you coming in to talk about this case.

We've been talking a little bit about why the lawsuit has been filed. In this lawsuit, you basically allege that the NFL, and I'm just looking at my notes here, the NFL football league camps are, quote, "modern day sweatshops." What do you mean?

KELCI STRINGER, SUING NFL FOR HEAT-RELATED DEATH OF HUSBAND, KOREY: Yes. I mean in a way that the players are used -- I don't want to sound so harsh, say used and abused, but in so many ways, it's like you have a show going on, entertainment on Sundays for the fans, but behind the scenes, it is not operated the way it looks. You don't have as much help, you don't have as many attendants there. It is kind of -- you -- the way I've seen it now is, you kind of have to fend for yourself. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: But Kelci, let me, let me just point out what the NFL says, and we asked for their comment, they said they wouldn't comment on the substance of the lawsuit, that they haven't read it at this point. But they say they have taken measures so as not to put their players at undue risk. They said they've banned products that contain ephedrine, they say they've held symposiums on heat-related illnesses. Your response. Is this enough?

STRINGER: That's not clearly enough. First of all, banning ephedra is a good thing for those who are living. But for my husband, it didn't do him any good, because that was not a substance that was in his system or a substance that killed him. So them just banning -- them banning that was kind of a slap in the face.

Also, they didn't even do a proper investigation to even make these recommendations. Symposiums? What about training, having proper trainers out there and certified trainers out there? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: So what is it you want, Kelci? What are you looking for in the suit besides, obviously, a large amount of money? What changes do you want made in the culture of the NFL, the practices?

STRINGER: I would like for them to use common sense, that if it's hot, too hot outside, to go inside and practice, as they do in Minnesota when it's very cold outside, they go inside. And just basic common sense. They had heat warnings for people not to go outside, so why is it OK for the players to go outside?

And to just really step up to the plate and be up to date with the technology that they have at their disposal, and use it for their players.

COOPER: All right. Well, we're going to follow this case closely. Kelci Stringer and attorney Stan Chesley, appreciate you joining us both to talk about your upcoming case. Thank you.

CHESLEY: Thank you.

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