NFL Settles Concussion Lawsuits – But Who Really Won?
After several months of court-mandated mediation, the National Football League settled a very public legal battle with over 4,500 of its retired players last week, tentatively agreeing to settle several lawsuits for a total of $765 million. The money will be paid out by the NFL over the next 20 years and allocated by an independent panel to the former players over many more years – possibly as many as 60 years – to help former players who suffer from chronic, often debilitating, health problems arising from head trauma incurred while playing in the NFL. In recent years, concussions have become a huge issue throughout the sports world. Both the NFL and National Collegiate Athletic Association have been targeted in lawsuits alleging that they knew the risks and effects of concussions but endeavored to conceal these risks from their players. By agreeing to a deal at this juncture, the NFL avoids a continued and highly publicized fight with its former players, including 10 Hall of Famers like Tony Dorsett, and it is able to avoid the disclosure of documents, which many believe could reveal knowledge on the part of the NFL that would support the former players’ claims. The former players, on the other hand, get immediate and continued help with the healthcare they now need to survive. The deal applies to all former players, regardless of whether they joined in the litigation. The deal does not apply to current players.
The NFL is estimated to have annual revenue of nearly $10 billion – YES Billion. Per year. One must consider whether a deal that requires the NFL to pay out less than 1/10 of its annual revenue over a 20 year period is really a big blow to the league. Many of the former players who signed on to these lawsuits are in dire medical straights and need health care now. Their apparent desperation has led them to make a deal now, but one cannot help but wonder what would have happened if the litigation