Retired NFL Players Settle With League

The lawsuit involving 4,500-plus retired NFL players, which charged that the League hid the full effects of head trauma from the players, has been settled, for a total of $765 million. Most of that money will go directly to compensating the players or their families, according to a formula determining the extent of injury or incapacity caused by football. There will also be money for medical exams and research. According to initial reports, the settlement is to cover “all retired players” as of the date of the settlement. I don’t know whether that precludes retired players who did not join this lawsuit from taking separate legal action against the League. That’s a question to be clarified.

ESPN business reporter Andrew Brandt declared that “We are done….This is a settlement of a major case against the NFL.” He did note that current players who would want to sue might do so but would face a higher burden, since much more is known now about concussions than was the case just a few years ago and since the League has taken more clearly proactive steps recently to address the problem. Brandt hesitated when asked to declare the NFL the “winner” in this outcome. The settlement requires the money to the players be paid out over the next two decades, with half the money coming in the initial three years, according to initial reports. On average, players or their families would receive between $150,000 and $200,000, but the actual amounts are going to vary very widely, with some receiving millions and others receiving relatively little.

Between now and 2033, using current annual revenues as a benchmark (though the figure will surely increase), the NFL would gross something like $200 billion. That’s clearly an underestimate, but still useful for putting in perspective what $765 million means.

As I said, the big question is what this settlement means for the future litigation landscape. The settlement stipulates that the NFL admits no liability and no wrongdoing. Whether other retirees will have a chance to challenge those stipulations remains to be seen.

In the short term, the NFL appears to have resolved a major headache and publicity problem. I have a hard time believing that its longer term problems will be so tidily dealt with.

Update: Here, by the way, is a compendium of articles and other resources about concussions and football.

Matt Yoder, of Awful Announcing, just tweeted out: “As I understand it the NFL got a sweetheart deal because some players are in such bad shape they need the money now. Now that’s troublesome.”

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