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NFL to spend $765M to settle concussion lawsuits
Question of the Day
If the settlement holds, the NFL won’t have to disclose internal files that might reveal what it knew, and when, about concussion-linked brain problems.
“I think it’s more important that the players have finality, that they’re vindicated, and that as soon as the court approves the settlement they can begin to get screening, and those that are injured can get their compensation. I think that’s more important than looking at some documents,” said lawyer Sol Weiss of Philadelphia, who filed the first lawsuit on behalf of former Atlanta Falcon Ray Easterling and a few others. Easterling later committed suicide.
Sports law experts had thought the lawsuits might cost the league $1 billion or more if they went to trial. The NFL had pushed for the claims to be heard in arbitration under terms of the players’ labor contract.
The league had also argued that individual teams bear the chief responsibility for health and safety under the collective bargaining agreement, along with the players’ union and the players themselves.
Dorsett said each day is getting harder for him, as he struggles with memory problems.
“It’s frustrating. Frustrating. And to have a 10-year old daughter who says to her mother, `Daddy can’t do this because Daddy won’t remember how to do it,’ it’s not a good feeling,” he said. “I’m glad to see there’s been … acknowledgment that football has had something to do with a lot of the issues us players are going through right now.”
While some of those who sued suffered brain ailments, others were worried about future problems and wanted their health monitored.
“I’m relieved; I don’t know about pleased. There are probably too many details to work through that we don’t all understand yet, quite frankly. But I’m relieved that both sides came together to protect the game we all love and help the players of the past and tomorrow. And to especially help those who need help right now, who have cognitive issues and those whose quality of life has been taken away,” said Mark Rypien, the MVP of the 1992 Super Bowl for the Washington Redskins.
He has dealt with depression and memory problems.
“It’s a good day, because we’re getting help for those who need help,” Rypien said, “and a sad day, because we didn’t get this done earlier to help guys in the past.”
Researchers at the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, who have been examining brains of deceased NFL players, praised the $10 million set aside for research.
The lawsuits, along with a growing awareness that concussions can have serious long-term effects, have already spurred research into better helmets and changed the way the game is played.
Helmet maker Riddell, which was also sued, was not a party to the settlement. The company declined comment.
The NFL has also instituted rule changes designed to eliminate hits to the head and neck, protect defenseless players, and prevent athletes who have had concussions from playing or practicing until they are fully recovered. Independent neurologists must be consulted before a player can return to action.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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