SBD/September 4, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Mixed Reaction From Former Players Toward Terms Of NFL Concussion Settlement

Fujita (l) wrote that the settlement was a huge win for former players
Given the "way the American civil-justice system works," odds were that many of the former NFLers involved in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL "would be dead by the time the case was resolved," according to Chris Mondics of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Anapol Schwartz attorney Sol Weiss, who served as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said that the settlement "was the better way." Weiss: "I felt that we were duty-bound to get people the money that they needed now rather than waiting five to 10 years" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/4). In N.Y., former NFLer Scott Fujita in a special wrote, "I expected a settlement to come at some point. What I didn't expect was to feel so oddly conflicted about it." Fujita: "I’m guessing there were not-so-subtle reminders that causation -- proving a plaintiff’s current health problems were directly caused by a head injury sustained while playing in the NFL -- is a heavy burden to meet in a court of law." But the settlement is a "huge win for the former players." Fujita: "We must not lose sight of that. It’s easy to tell someone to hold out for more when it’s not your livelihood at risk." These deals are "complicated and multilayered, and they affect everybody differently." It is "easy to feel conflicted." It is "not always easy to declare a winner or a loser" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/2). Colts S and player rep Antoine Bethea said, "On one end, it's good for some of the retired players to get that money. On the other end, the league isn't going to be up on the stand. And that's what we wanted" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/4).

RETIREES REACT: In Syracuse, Chris Carlson reported plaintiff Floyd Little was "seething" about the terms of the settlement. Little: "Now all this can go away, right? That's s---. It's not good for me. It's not good for the players over 50." Little believes the deal "forces NFL veterans to sacrifice self-respect," and "doesn't think players should be forced to prove how bad their life has gotten to earn the best payout." Little said that he "doesn't plan to participate." Little: "You have to prove it? What the heck is that? I have to go humble myself? How can you prove that you've suffered? Guys aren't going to do it" (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 8/30). Pro Football HOFer Harry Carson, though not a plaintiff, said, "When you look at the dollar figure, it appears to be a large dollar figure. But when you look at the fact that it’s over a 20-year period, it doesn’t seem quite as large. I had mixed emotions about it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/1). Plaintiff Lomas Brown: “Why that amount? Why did we settle now? It seemed like we had a stronghold on this thing. ... It seemed like more and more every day things were coming out against the NFL. And in all my dealings with the NFL owners, the one thing I know is they don’t bow down to anyone. They fight you tooth and nail.” Brown added, "I know that’s a big number, but it’s not a significant amount of money. I’m not downgrading the players who need it, but it’s not life-changing money" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/3). Plaintiff Forrest Gregg: "I'm glad to see it happen. It serves a lot of purpose, and the people who really need to be taken care of will be taken care of." Plaintiff Thomas Jones: "Everybody looks at the money -- not the actual issue. There are family members dealing with these players that have problems walking, that don’t even remember their names" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/31). Mike Duerson, the brother of late NFLer Dave Duerson, said, "I don't think there's enough money ... going toward research." He added of the settlement, “You look at the fact that it’s going to be divided up by 4,500 or so players and their families. I personally think that they should have held out for a court action" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/3).

FAMILY MATTERS: In N.Y., Rohan & Belson noted some plaintiffs, like Eleanor Perfetto, the widow of the former NFLer Ralph Wenzel, "were more torn" when reacting to the settlement. She said that she "felt relieved that the suit was ending ... but also disappointed that there would be no admission by the NFL regarding a link between the players’ concussions and their illnesses" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/31). In a special to SI, Mary Ann Easterling, the widow of former NFLer Ray Easterling, wrote settling the lawsuit “was the best outcome.” Easterling: “When we sued the NFL, our goal was to force the league to set up a medical monitoring program for former players.” The “key part” of the agreement “provides clear access to medical care and testing independent of the NFL and its doctors.” Easterling: “Sure, we could have held out for billions, but at what price?” Easterling writes the settlement “means one of the NFL wives I’ve befriended will be able to hire the help she needs on the two days per week she can’t make it to the nursing home to make sure her husband is bathed and groomed.” Easterling: “There is no price I could ever put on my pain, but we can assign dollar signs to the doctors’ visits and brain scans” (SI, 9/9 issue).

CASH GRAB FOR PLAYERS? Former NFLer Eddie George on Friday said that he "thinks the lawsuit might have been more about a cash grab than about finding real solutions for former players who are genuinely suffering." George: "Was the motive from the players’ side finding a real solution to concussions, or is it about receiving the money? Because if you have symptoms as a player, and you’re going through issues, with the post-career, and you’re having issues with concussions, what is the money going to solve? What is $100,000 going to solve for you? Is it going to provide the care, are you going to find solutions to your problems? That’s what kind of bothered me about the whole situation" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 8/30).

NEW SUITS: The AP's Janet McConnaughey reported four former NFLers on Sunday -- Jimmy Williams, Rich Mauti, Jimmy Keyes and Nolan Franz -- "sued the league and its helmet maker" Riddell, claiming the two parties "hid information about the dangers of brain injury." They want "medical care for past, current and future NFL players." The players filed the federal lawsuit in New Orleans. Riddell "isn't part of the proposed settlement." Three wives -- Chandra Williams, Nancy Mauti and Billie Keyes -- "also are plaintiffs." They said that brain injuries "have deprived them and will deprive other NFL spouses of their husbands' 'services, society, and companionship'" (AP, 9/3). Meanwhile, Anapol Schwartz' Weiss, who served as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the settled case, yesterday said that he "anticipates the complaint of Mauti, Williams, Franz and Keyes will be made part of the settlement" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 9/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole also tweeted this morning, "3 former college football players file lawsuit vs NCAA over concussions."
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