SBD/August 30, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
While the NFL reached a proposed settlement of $765M with the more than 4,500 retired players who sued the league over the dangers of head trauma, the league "does not have to pay" the full amount at once: "it can disburse the money over 20 years," according to a front-page piece by Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The league also "avoids a discovery process" and it "did not acknowledge any wrongdoing with how it dealt with head injuries." The settlement "still needs approval" from U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody, and players also will be "given a chance to opt out of it and pursue a separate suit against the NFL" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30). ESPN.com's Lester Munson wrote with the deal, team owners "are going to be happier than the players." If the settlement sum is "divided equally among the 32 owners, then each owner will pay only" $24M, which will "be paid in installments." And a large portion of the $24M will "be paid from league and team insurance." Munson: "If you told any owner a year ago that he could escape from the concussion crisis with a payment of $24 million, he would have been relieved and happy" (ESPN.com, 8/29). Full details of the settlement follow:
DETAILS OF $765M CONCUSSION SETTLEMENT
Bulk of money: $675M will go to former players who suffered cognitive injury. Funds could go to their families and covers all 18,000 former NFL players. Payout limits: $5M for Alzheimer's disease; $4M to families of those diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy; $3M for those with dementia. Other funds: Will be used for testing, research, education, legal fees and administrative costs. Timing: NFL will pay half over the next three years. Remaining half will be spread over the next 17 years.
HOW THE DEAL WENT DOWN: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Futterman & Clark in a front-page piece note the agreement, reached at 2:00am ET Thursday after "nine weeks of intense mediation, came far earlier than most expected" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/30). Christopher Seeger, co-counsel for the retirees, sounded satisfied with the amount on Thursday, and rebuffed questions from reporters asking if the $765M was less than he expected. An insurance company lawyer earlier this year said the total settlement could be $2.5B. Seeger called the NFL tough negotiators, and specifically referred to Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones as a "hard ass" (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). The N.Y. TIMES' Belson writes lawyers for the plaintiffs were "eager to reach a settlement because many of their clients have debilitating neurological problems that need attention." Without a deal, a legal remedy "might have taken years, with no guarantee that the courts would rule in favor of the players." Seeger: "The big picture was we got immediate care to the retired players." Seeger said that assuming Brody "signs off, the deal could take about 180 days for the players to start receiving compensation." If the deal is approved, "approximately half of the settlement amount will be paid over the next three years, with the balance issued over the next 17 years" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30). ABC News' Dan Harris asked Seeger, "By settling, have you let them off the hook?" Seeger: "No, unless somebody thinks paying $760 million is letting somebody off the hook" ("World News Tonight," ABC, 8/29). In L.A., Farmer & Healy note in a front-page piece that current players "are not covered by the agreement" (L.A. TIMES, 8/30).
Plaintiffs' attorney says Jerry Jones was a "hard ass"
during settlement negotiations
INSIDE THE DEAL: THE MMQB's Peter King wrote the NFL's "nuclear-winter scenario has vanished." This is a "very fair deal to buy peace of mind for the next decade." King: "I'm told that there was a strong consensus of the owners to do the deal that was on the table between the two sides" (MMQB.SI.com, 8/29). Legal experts said that the plaintiffs' attorneys "didn't believe they had enough firepower to win in court" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/30). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the "most important point" driving the settlement was "the looming ruling on whether all or most of the claims would be steered toward the arbitration process." That "helped the two sides come together and work out their own resolution" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/29).
AND THE WINNER IS...: The N.Y. TIMES' Belson writes the settlement will "be seen as a victory for the league," which "faced the possibility of billions of dollars in liability payments and a discovery phase that could have proved damaging if the case had moved forward" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30). On Long Island, Bob Glauber notes the deal, if approved, would "remove one of the thorniest financial and public relations problems facing the league in recent years." That means the league "would be protected from being sued on similar grounds in the future" (NEWSDAY, 8/30). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch writes this "can only be seen as a huge victory for a league that had been rocked in recent years by the mounting fallout from concussion-related injuries." Hubbuch: "Not surprisingly, the NFL was keeping a low profile in the wake of its big victory." The league "refused comment aside from a statement" by Pash that said the owners wanted to avoid a lengthy court case (N.Y. POST, 8/30). SI.com's Michael McCann noted by settling, the league "obtains control over the controversy and prevents the prospect of jury of a dozen people from dictating the league's future." The NFL also "sidesteps any potential damaging disclosures in the pretrial discovery process" (SI.com, 8/29). FORBES.com's Tom Van Riper wrote the NFL "rids itself of a big potential problem." It also "gets a PR boost at a time it could use one, just as the concussion issue has been front and center in the public eye during recent months" (FORBES.com, 8/29). In N.Y., Thomson & Red write the proposed settlement "allows the NFL to begin regular-season play next week without the specter of an emotional and divisive topic hanging over the new season" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/30).
WHAT'S NEXT: The NFL now must turn its attention to its insurers, who the league is suing to try to cover the costs of the now settlement (Kaplan). In N.Y., Thomson & Red write there is "still a lawsuit" pending against helmet manufacturer Riddell (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/30). The size of the NFL settlement "could motivate other athletes to sue their leagues, including the NCAA." But those players "may not get as far as the NFL retirees if they are unable to show that a league or governing body knowingly withheld information about the dangers of head injuries" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30). Toronto-based lawyer Caroline Zayid "believes the already-long odds of former NHL players attempting legal action against the league over the matter of concussions have become a little longer with the" settlement. Zayid: "This avoids them having to release all the documents that would show what they knew and when they knew it." She added, "If all the documents had been produced, it might have made it easier to follow the trail and figure out when certain information became widely known and when medical evidence came to light" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/30). In Boston, Erin Smith writes the agreement "signals a new awareness that could trickle down to college, high school and even Pop Warner teams looking to increase safety on the gridiron" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/30).
Former players, including some plaintiffs in the settlement and many not involved, commented on Thursday's deal. In N.Y., Zach Schonbrun writes the settlement was "met with mostly positive reactions from some family members of players involved in the suit" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30).
FORMER PLAYERS PLEASED: Fran Tarkenton: "The NFL is finally doing the right thing." Jim McMahon has "been diagnosed with dementia," and his attorney Larry Coben said, "I can tell you that he's delighted" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30). Charlie Waters: "It was a great admission from the NFL. The directive they made was, 'Hey, we want to do the right thing'" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/30). Plaintiff Ben Utecht: "A big win for players. From what I'm reading, how it looks is that it's really designed to take care of those who are truly in need, and a lot of former players are" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/30). Plaintiff Frank Garcia: "This is the first time you can look and say, 'They're putting their money where their mouth is'" (ESPN.com, 8/30). Plaintiff Peter Cronan: "This is a benchmark day for retired players. ... It's an acknowledgement that the NFL is willing to take some degree of responsibility for the safety risks we took to build the game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/30). Warren Moon: "From what the first offer was to where it is now, I think it's a fair deal" (ESPN.com, 8/29). Plaintiff Barry Krauss: "The NFL obviously doesn't want any further lawsuits. They've stepped it up, and there is more awareness" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/30). Plaintiff Kevin Turner, who has ALS and was one of the faces of the litigation, said, "There will always be people who said there should have been more, but they are probably not the ones with ALS and at home" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/30). Barry Sanders: "I like the sound of it. … Obviously, the NFL didn’t reveal information on concussions, but they acknowledge it’s been an issue for a long time. … I love the sound of it. I think it will go a long ways with former players and even current players" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/29).
SOME LUKEWARM TO DEAL: Plaintiff Gary Knafelc: "At least they have done something to help. ... It doesn’t seem like that much will trickle down to individual players." Dave Robinson: "The most important thing to me is that they are setting up a portion of the settlement for research" (GREENBAYPRESSGAZETTE.com, 8/29). Plaintiff Bennie Thompson: "It was a good win for the players because now it's settled and guys get something, but the NFL wins even more because they can afford to pay a lot more." Plaintiff Wally Williams dubbed the settlement "a beginning." Williams: "If I get a $170,000 check, I would be pretty happy." Former player John Mackey's widow, Sylvia Mackey: "I'm elated. ... Even though it seems the NFL doesn't want to admit the faults of the past, they do want to move on and address this issue" (Baltimore SUN, 8/30). Plaintiff Mark Rypien: "I don’t know that a lot of us are going to make significant money off of this, and that was never the intent. But what we wanted was to know that if there was a need that would arise, then the cost of that care would be taken care of and that our health will be monitored" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/30). Former NFLPA President Kevin Mawae was critical of the deal and tweeted, "NFL concussion lawsuit net outcome? Big loss for the players now and the future! Estimated NFL revenue by 2025 = $27 BILLION However, the retirees faced ticking clocks on the health of many of its class members, and legal hurdles that could have left them with little if anything." He later said, "The biggest win for [the NFL] is they don’t have to disclose anything, any of the information that they may have had since the late '80s or early '90s on concussions. ... They may have had information back in 1994 that the players could have at least known all these years, but they paid to keep those that closed. That’s what it amounts to. There’s no disclosure anymore." He said that he "hopes the most deserving players get their fair share." Mawae: "I looked at some of the names in the lawsuit, and I'd never heard of some of them. For some guys it's just a money grab. Maybe they went to one training camp or didn't even make a practice squad" (247SPORTS.com, 8/29). ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said he spoke to Mawae, who told him, "What I call this is hush money" (“World News Tonight,” ABC, 8/29). CBSSPORTS.com's Pete Prisco wrote, "I am glad the players got their money. ... I don't think they deserve it. ... It's a money grab" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/29).
Dobler says he doesn't think the settlement
will pay off for the players long-term
Columnists weigh in on the NFL's concussion settlement with the players, with the league coming out favorably in terms of the result and the timing.
OWNERS WIN: In L.A., Bill Dwyre writes the "bottom line is that the NFL both caved and won." It is "nothing if not business-savvy." Dwyre: "Pay now or possibly be put out of business later." The league was "losing public opinion, the ultimate defeat." The NFL "did well here" (L.A. TIMES, 8/30). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote Thursday will "go down as one of the most important days in the history -- and future" -- of the NFL. The league can "go forth with certainty and continued vigilance, but for now at least, with no fear about its future in American culture" (ESPN.com, 8/29). GRANTLAND's Bill Barnwell: "I can certainly understand why the players and their lawyers would see this deal as one they wanted to take. But, given the possibilities of what might have been, the NFL will see today's news as an enormous victory" (GRANTLAND.com, 8/29). In Phoenix, Dan Bickley writes the NFL "has set the bar for getting off easy" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/30). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes under the header, "Concussion Settlement A Win For NFL" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/30). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote the agreement is a "major win for the NFL in that it does not have to reveal any medical research it commissioned related to this controversial issue" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 8/29). In Boston, Christopher Gasper writes the players are "getting their share, but as usual it's not proportionate." This is a "win for the NFL and its owners." Gasper: "Perhaps most importantly for the NFL was avoiding the discovery process of a civil lawsuit" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/30). In N.Y., Ralph Vacchiano writes the NFL "surely knew it had to end this saga quickly, and that it could never actually let it get to court." NFL owners "already looked like the worst kind of bullies fighting this battle," and a "protracted court case would’ve made them look infinitely worse as the months and probably years dragged on" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/30). ESPN’s Chris Mortensen: "Without question, people believe that this is a win for the NFL owners" ("World News Tonight," ABC, 8/29). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes the NFL "wins again." Bell: "Just $765 million?" Attorney Cyrus Mehri said, "I'm sure both sides had to move substantially from their original positions. But for the players, there's a bird-in-hand factor as well" (USA TODAY, 8/30). In Vancouver, Ed Willes asks did the NFL "got off cheaply?" That question "will be answered over the next decade or so but there were former players who need helps, who couldn't wait for this case to drag on" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 8/30). Marquette Univ. Sports Law Institute Dir Matt Mitten said, "It signals a new era for the NFL. It says, 'Let's get this behind us.'" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/30).
If a settlement was a win for both sides, Goodell is
seen as perhaps the biggest winner of all
ON THE LOSING END: ESPN.com's Jeffri Chadiha wrote under the header, "Did The Players Get Played?" There should have been "a lot more money, a lot more blame, and an apology from the league and the owners" (ESPN.com, 8/29). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote the NFL "put off the day of reckoning, but only for a while." There are still "plenty who have decided or are going to decide to opt out of the settlement, and they won't be going away so easily" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/29). In DC, Mike Wise writes the players who settled "had real reasons." Wise: "But let’s be clear what happened: Goodell’s lawyers took advantage of the immediate-gratification needs of the NFL’s former players, just as the league once took advantage of woozy-headed men who knew their careers might be over if they didn’t go back in the game." Wise: "Shame on the plaintiffs’ attorneys, who had the gall to trumpet the settlement as a victory." Some of the "all-time greats and the teammates who carried water for them needed help now." They "weren’t interested in helping the next generation; they wanted to get paid," and the "future of football is much poorer for it today" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/30). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes, "Maybe this is how the league will do business in the years to come." Maybe it "ends up being a coldhearted ATM -- stubbornly sticking to a violent, hugely popular game and spitting out cash later to the broken gladiators." A settlement of "three-quarters of a billion dollars isn’t crippling. Painful, yes, but nothing that won’t heal" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/30). NBC's Bob Costas: "It closes a chapter, but it doesn't close the book. It's an ongoing problem" ("NBC Nightly News," 8/29).
Officials from the National Women's Soccer League "would never admit it in public, but they couldn't ask for a better ending to the league's inaugural season" with the Portland Thorns playing the Western New York Flash in the title game on Sunday, according to Geoffrey Arnold of the Portland OREGONIAN. The game will "feature the league's two most popular players" -- Thorns F Alex Morgan and Flash F Abby Wambach." NWSL Exec Dir Cheryl Bailey said, "A lot of those fans will come out to see both teams because of various connections they have and because of the names we're bringing into town." Arnold wrote a championship "loaded with high-profile stars is what the league need[s] to close an inaugural that can be considered a modest success, but there are areas in need of improvement." There were "sold out crowds at some stadiums and sparse crowds at other games" this season. Flash Communications Manager Jackie Maynard said that the title game "wasn't a sell out as of Wednesday evening." She added, "We're expecting to have at least 10,000. With a good walk-up, we could get a sellout." The league finished with an average of 4,270 during the regular season, and clubs such as the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC "struggled at the gate." Bailey: "While the numbers on paper might not look like they're exceedingly high, the percentages of what they sold in the stadium was. Just to use the raw numbers is something we're not going to look at. We're going to certainly look at the percentages of how they've been able to fill their stadiums and what those numbers might look like" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/29).
MLB "sweats its postseason schedule, providing ample travel days to keep the players as fresh and sharp as possible," but now it must "find a way to improve the regular-season travel schedule for West Coast teams," according to Jim Caple of ESPN.com. The Dodgers "just completed their fourth trip to the East Coast to play against NL East opponents," which was their "fifth overall cross-country trip." Meanwhile, the A's are at the "tail end of their fourth trip to the East Coast ... and next month, they will make their fifth trip to the state of Texas." The Mariners, likewise, have "four trips to the East Coast and five trips to Texas this season." The Angels have "four trips to the East Coast and SIX trips to Texas on their schedule." Mariners President & CEO Chuck Armstrong said, "The American League West always seems to come out with on the wrong end." MLB Senior VP/Club Relations & Scheduling Katy Feeney said, "As much as we would like to try and accommodate everyone with all their wishes, they often are in conflict with each other." Mariners SS Brendan Ryan: "It's something you can never figure out mathematically in black and white (terms), but it definitely is a disadvantage. If you're arguing otherwise, then you're not being fair." Caple wrote the travel disparity "might be worse next year," so MLB "needs to work harder to make the travel schedules more equitable" (ESPN.com, 8/28).
UFC President Dana White is "eager to set up a show in Russia and said he was unaware of the country's new anti-gay legislation and the backlash it has created," according to the AP. White said, "We're going to talk to the right people and we're going to figure out whether we're going to do this or not." White said that he "did not know the date" of a potential visit. Asked about the law and the controversy surrounding it, White said, "No, I know nothing about it" (AP, 8/29).
READY FOR THE RINGS? REUTERS' Patrick Johnston wrote as MMA "grapples for recognition as a mainstream sport, the powerbrokers behind its surge in popularity are adamant inclusion in the Olympic Games is close to becoming a reality." UFC Exec VP & Asia Managing Dir Mark Fischer said that an Olympic place "might only be 20 years away thanks to the work of his organisation in growing the sport and the introduction of the fledgling" Int'l MMA Federation. Fisher said, "Because of the interest, because of the investment now the startups, gyms, promotions etc that are going into mixed martial arts, then we are very confident that we are going to have the weight behind this movement to be in the Olympics." Fischer acknowledged, however, that Olympic inclusion "was not on his immediate agenda as he bids to help MMA and the UFC in Asia." Fischer: "Do we need it? No, we are going to survive and continue to grow. Would it help to put us on that next level of interest and really capture everybody's imagination and understanding? I think it would help tremendously" (REUTERS, 8/30).
Much like NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, the NHRA's Countdown was "designed to generate interest near the end of the season, when motor sports are dwarfed by the nation's sports juggernaut -- the NFL," according to Jeff Olson in a special for USA TODAY. NHRA Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Gary Darcy said of the playoff-type format, "It gives a great marketing platform and media platform, and it creates fan interest. ... It has heightened the level of fan interest." Olson notes some drivers have "grown accustomed to the structure, while others think it puts too much emphasis on the finals six races after an 18-event 'regular season' in a sport that runs for 10 months out of the year." Driver Mike Neff said, "What you set up for there is a chance that someone can win 19 races and not win the championship, which is absurd." Darcy said that the Countdown format was implemented "not because of NASCAR and the reinvigoration it found with a revamped system but because something was needed to generate interest at the end of the NHRA season, which stretches from February to November." He added, "Baseball's playoff system has evolved over decades. It's in that vein that we wanted to keep a level of excitement around the course of the season and at the end of the season." Darcy said that the Countdown is "working, both in terms of fan and sponsor interest and numbers," but did not provide specifics about TV ratings, crowds or sponsorship dollars. Darcy: "Many of the tracks want to be in the Countdown, but they don't want to switch their date equity to get there" (USA TODAY, 8/30).