Release the minority report on field project

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To the Editor:

Stunning. Is the disappearing MVC minority report a hiccup, or the result of bare-knuckled legal bullying?

On one hand, the MVC minority felt sufficiently strongly that, even after years of community conversation, and after months of hearings, hundreds of hours of testimony, and reams of documents, they were moved to seek each other out and take action, together. They decided to write an unprecedented dissenting report, restating their case against the proposed synthetic turf field and indicating the flaws of the pro-synthetic turf arguments. Presumably they went through a lot of work with edits and drafts. Finally, MVC Chair Malkin, one of the dissenters, announced on August 26 that the report would be posted in less than one day.
And then? Silence. A “change of heart.”

Forgive me, but this smacks of shutting down the conversation — and suppressing the report. If it’s not, the MVC members, and counsel, should so state. 

They can do so by answering a simple question: 

What new and compelling concern was raised, and by whom, in the handful of hours between when Chair Malkin announced the minority report would be posted, and the “change of heart”? It seems unlikely that between the chair’s August 26 announcement and the events leading to the Sept. 3 MV Times article, a novel and substantive concern suddenly emerged — one that was previously unrecognized, and yet was so persuasive it suddenly generated a change of heart for all six dissenters. 

If that is what happened, shouldn’t we all urgently know the content of that novel information?

If it’s not what happened, shouldn’t we know what did result in the decision to yank the report?

In my 12-plus years of experience as an unpaid advocate for grass over synthetic turf, this fits an unwelcome pattern from this multibillion-dollar industry — deny, obfuscate, delay, distract, and backtrack on the “Big Five”: heat, toxicity, injury, cost, and disposal.

Like the fact that for decades, athletes have overwhelmingly opposed synthetic turf as an unsafe, inferior product that puts their careers and safety at risk (injury, heat, toxicity) — even the newest versions, and even the finest turf money can literally buy (cost):

  • Hot off the presses: NWSL players criticize decision to host championship game on turf at 9 am (bit.ly/turfFinal).
  • NFL Players Association president, fall 2020: “Our occupation is dangerous enough, and the increased rate of lower-extremity injuries linked to the field surface we are forced to play on is unacceptable […] until the risk of injury on turf mirrors the risk on grass, playing on turf is not in the best interest of our players … The data supports the anecdotes you’ll hear from me and other players: Artificial turf is significantly harder on the body than grass. Based on NFL injury data collected from 2012 to 2018, not only was the contact injury rate for lower extremities higher during practices and games held on artificial turf, NFL players consistently experienced a much higher rate of non-contact lower-extremity injuries on turf compared to natural surfaces” (bit.ly/NFLturf). 
  • “The data stands out … those numbers are staggering, the difference in injury rate between turf and natural grass. It’s possible to get grass in every location, and it’s about pushing for that. We all should be working toward the safest style of play. We know the dangers of playing on turf. That’s not good for anybody” (bit.ly/NFLturf2).

Like the applicant’s expert Dr. L. Green, who proclaimed for years that tire infill was safe … till it wasn’t? But now we should believe this kind of field is safe? (Environmental toxicity; human toxicity.)

Or like the unanswered disposal nightmare: The manufacturer on deck for the MVRHS field, Tencate, was effusively thanked — by name — in a 2017 industry guide on recycling all components of synthetic turf … yet last April told MVC, “The answer is none,” when asked how many synthetic turfs have ever been recycled in the U.S. 

Or like data manipulation: The industry has paid over $1 million to a nonmedical professional to repackage the devastating injury data from the leading peer-reviewed orthopedic journal, by cherry-picking his own cohorts to report. And presenting it as science — only to be called out on the record by our expert.

And that is why the record matters. 

And that is why we need to see the minority report by the six commissioners.

That minority report is presumably based on the extensive record of the commission’s proceedings, so how could anything in it present a problem? Could it be that it makes the case for grass fields too well? Upsets or embarrasses important people? 

I would welcome being rebutted by disclosure of whatever powerful new argument silenced the six dissenting commissioners. Otherwise let’s see the report produced, as written, by those six courageous public servants. Either way that minority report needs to be part of the record, and part of the conversation. 

 

Diana Conway
Tisbury and Potomac, Md.

 

Conway is president of Safe Healthy Playing Fields, Inc.  –Ed.

1 COMMENT

  1. I’ll nit pick a bit here, as it seems this opinion is somewhat hypocritical. You charge the MVC with something devious but not really, then charge them with ignoring certain facts and not others; which is exactly what you did in your opinion. This has been argued over for many many years to the outcome at hand, yet you throw out all the same arguments that have been reviewed already, multiple times, over many years, with compromise and willingness to change from one side only. You threw out “crumb rubber” as if cork will some day be found to be cancerous…..This piece is simply another throw at the wall to see what sticks.

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