What Junior Seau's family must decide

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  • 'Everything is in a flux,' says family friend
  • Samoans a very tight-knit group of people, expert says
What Junior Seau's family must decide

The family of football great Junior Seau is “revisiting several important family decisions” relating to the study of the football legend’s brain in the wake of his suicide last week.

San Diego Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell told HLN that the family was still deliberating on which researchers they might allow to study Seau’s brain to find clues about any football-related injuries. “Everything is still in flux,” Mitchell said.

“The Seau family is currently revisiting several important family decisions and placing them on hold in order to confer with their elders. All possibilities are being considered, but none will be acted upon until the Seaus arrive at an agreed upon direction,” the family said Monday in a statement.

Seau, who is of Samoan descent, died last Wednesday in Oceanside, California, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a death that stunned the nation and renewed scrutiny on football-related injuries.

Since his death, a number of makeshift memorials and vigils have sprung up by fans and communities touched by the football star, but the family has yet to announce a funeral. The family is seeking "elders in their culture for spiritual assistance," Mitchell said.

Read more: Did Seau's 'tough-guy' persona play a role in his death?

Rob Ruck, a sports historian, professor at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the project, “Fa’a Samoa: Football on American Samoa and Among the Diaspora,” told HLN that the elders of the Samoan culture still hold much sway today when it comes to big family decisions or things that affect the collective well being of their people.

“'Natai’ are the chiefs or elders,” Ruck said. “And that system has remained very much intact” even with the influence of Westerners to the South Pacific islands in the 1800s, he said. While he couldn’t comment on specifics relating to the Seaus, Ruck said it would not be unusual for the family to consult with a Natai about what to do with the football star’s body.

“Whenever there’s a death or a wedding or something that needs to be done for the collective of the people, the Natai can tell people, ‘I want you to give this much to the family, or do this or that,” Ruck said. The younger generation, even part of the diaspora in California, have much respect for the culture and its elders, he said. 

"It’s very likely that the Seaus still have roots to the American Samoan community and even though these communities are distant – five to six hour flight from Hawaii – there’s a lot of back and forth, where people who grew up in San Diego still go back," Ruck said. "And if the Natia tells them they need to contribute to something or what have you, then they do that."

On Sunday, media outlets reported that hundreds of people surfed near Seau's Oceanside home as part of a seaborne memorial for the 12-time Pro Bowler.

The San Diego Chargers announced that they will host a “Celebration of Life” on Friday in honor of Seau, who played for the team for 13 seasons.

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