On the eve of the 2013 regular season, the National Football League and lawyers representing certain players have reached a preliminary settlement of claims concerning concussions and other head injuries.
The player lawsuits alleged that the NFL had hid information about the effect and potential dangers of head trauma. In the proposed settlement, the NFL doesn’t admit any liability, but agrees to pay $765 million. The money will be spread among more than 4,500 players and payments of the money will be made over 20 years, with half of the settlement proceeds being paid in the first three years.
According to the New York Times story linked above, the NFL makes about $10 billion a year, so the payment of $765 million over 20 years — while not exactly chump change — is likely to be only a tiny fraction of the League’s revenue during that time period. The players, however, get certainty and immediacy, rather than the prospect of continued litigation over the next few years and an uncertain result, which is important if you are battling neurological problem or other issues that you claim were caused by concussions you received during your NFL career. On the other hand the NFL, which is the most PR-savvy of the professional sports leagues, avoids the sad and unseemly spectacle of crippled and addled former star players parading before a jury to show the degree of their mental injuries.
The American public loves football and loves the big, bone-jarring hits that the NFL provides; it’s why the NFL is easily the most popular sport in the country. Those who played the game received lucrative salaries and adulation, but paid a high price. It’s very troubling to see men who were once premier athletes hobbled, mentally and physically, to the point where they cannot walk unaided or remember what they have done during the day. I’m not sure that any amount of money is really adequate compensation for what those men have lost.