By Dwayne McClary
In this image Jan. 25, 2012 file photo taken from video, Hall of Fame football player Tony Dorsett, is interviewed in his home in suburban Dallas. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine, File)
Now that the NFL concussion settlement has been reached, many are still left wondering, whether the retired players or the league came out on top of this pile-up.
The NFL was given 20 years to pay the $765 million tab, which will consist of individual monetary compensation packages, medical examinations, and research underwriting.
Although that price tag may seem hefty, it is peanuts to the possible $20 billion that the league can generate in revenue by 2033; the same year that the significantly smaller settlement debt is to be paid in full.
But what’s more bothersome to many, is the NFL’s insistence of non-admission of wrongdoing in the matter. It’s not that the NFL should solely “shoulder pad” the blame of causing potential head trauma, but the question remains has the league been proficient enough in promoting safety first and acknowledging the major neurological risks by competing in the sport.
Surely the NFL has outlawed helmet-to-helmet collisions and commissioner Roger Goodell has handed out more than his share of fines and suspensions for unsportsman-like hits, but can more be done in prevention of the degradation of past and present players?
Perhaps the Surgeon General should enforce the NFL to stamp the same warning on all of its properties and packaging, just as it’s done to the cigarette industry. Issue an official disclaimer such as, “The Surgeon General warns that playing football may be hazardous to your health and cause head trauma, concussions, and brain injuries.” Maybe that might silence those critics, who do not feel that the NFL has taken enough accountability, responsibility, and a firm stance in advising the importance of long term health, safety, and protection.
Another concern is that the terms of the settlement do not require the NFL to make any safety adjustments to the rules of the game and changes to its sanctioned equipment. Many are angered that the league has yet to own up to the fact that there is a common medical link between the contact sport and head injuries.
The terms of the settlement states that $10 million of the deal, must be invested into ongoing research and testing. Does this imply that prior to the suit, the NFL has never allocated any of its estimated $10 billion annual income towards head trauma study? Yet, maintains that the league’s main priority is still safety first. Physicians also contend that $10 million is a very small figure to conduct in-depth study on such a sensitive, intricate, and complex matter.
Many feel that the retired players are not satisfied with the settlement and only agreed to its terms and conditions in the first place, due to their need for money, health care, uncertainty of life expectancy, and awareness of the NFL’s judicial tactic of dragging out the litigation process. It’s surprising that during this lengthy, ongoing suit, the league didn’t immediately implement and budget for an interim research and analysis program.
Some accountability must also be given to the fans, who hi-five, fist bump, applaud, and clamor around the TV to watch ESPN Sportscenter‘s highlight reel of the ‘Top 10′ hits of the week, every time an NFL player gets leveled by a brain rattling blow. The league is more compelled to satisfy this barbaric behavior reaction, if it means ticket sales and ratings.
Another concern that the NFL might want to get prepared to throw the yellow flag at now, is this settlement potentially opening up the lion’s mouth for many other malpractice suits.
One wouldn’t be surprised, if former players, suffering with the possible after effects of longtime steroid usage such as liver abnormalities, HIV, psychiatric disorders, and drug dependence felt that in order to remain employed and compete at a certain level, were pressured to “even the gridiron” by succumbing to the widespread dosage of PEDs.
Or perhaps former players, who in fear of losing a spot on an active roster, allowed themselves to be prematurely rushed off the Injured Reserve list before fully recovering by team doctors and the front office. The probability of additional lawsuits seem inevitable, given the NFL’s ability to make money and its willingness to settle against a legitimate claim.