SBD/August 30, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Columnists Weigh In On NFL's Concussion Settlement With Former Players

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
GOODELL'S STRATEGY: In Chicago, David Haugh writes the "stain isn't gone but it should begin to fade now." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell now can "say with a straight face that rules changes intended to make the game safer ... really are driven by concerns over players avoiding injury and not just the league getting sued." The NFL "won this legal showdown by two touchdowns" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/30). In San Diego, Tom Krasovic writes the settlement "looks like a victory for both sides," but the "bigger victory" belongs to Goodell. Krasovic: "The continued drumbeat of negative stories also would've smacked the league" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/30). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly: "Think of what Goodell spared the league and the game more generally by handing over a small packet of cash." The urge to "report on this issue will now inevitably wane. In the public imagination, this issue is now past-tense." It also "creates a new starting line going forward" (TORONTO STAR, 8/30).

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).
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