The NFL has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought forth by 4,500 retired players and family members of deceased players who are suffering health problems due to the long-term effects of head trauma suffered on the field. The settlement is for $765 million, and the NFL will also pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs.
The NFL faced the possibility of billions of dollars in liability payments had the case proceeded to court. The deal also will keep the NFL out of a lengthy discovery process. In essence, the league isn’t admitting guilt but doesn’t want to air its dirty laundry either.
The $765 million payout will be available to retired players with cognitive issues and their families, whether or not the player was part of the suit. The amount a player is eligible for will vary based on their condition and the length of time they played in the league. Money is also earmarked for research and education about head trauma. The money should be available within a few months.
Judge Layn Phillips, the court-appointed mediator in the cases, said:
This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football.
That sentiment is shared by the NFL. NFL Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pash said:
This agreement lets us help those who need it most and continue our work to make the game safer for current and former players.
This settlement seems like the right move for the game of football itself. It keeps the league from crumbling under billions of dollars of liability payments. The league is also aware that it can not mislead players about the long-term impact of head trauma, and it has made strides to improve the diagnosis and treatment of head trauma.
At the same time, I question how much individual players will actually receive. Medical bills for chronic conditions can easily reach thousands of dollars. The quality of life can deteriorate for former players with conditions such as ALS, Alzheimer’s Disease, and dementia. It’s difficult to place a monetary value on that, especially in cases like Junior Seau. Seau committed suicide in March, and his family claimed it was related to brain injury caused from the violence of football.
The settlement will mean players and their families will get more immediate assistance, but did the plaintiffs settle for too little?