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SBD/May 21, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies
NFL Faces New Lawsuit From Former Players, Alleging League Pushed Painkillers
Published May 21, 2014
HARD TO HANDLE: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes this lawsuit is "the one thing that could bring ruin to the NFL," but it is "too soon to say what its prospects for success are or how costly it could be" to the league. NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello said that the league "hasn't seen the lawsuit yet," and added that its attorneys "haven't had an opportunity to review it." But Armour notes there are "enough similarities to claims made in the concussion lawsuit to warrant a closer look." The eight players in the suit paint a picture of a league that "recklessly and negligently created and maintained a culture of drug misuse, substituting players' health for profit." Attorney Steve Silverman said team doctors and trainers "were handing out drugs like it was Halloween candy to mask these injuries to get these guys out on the field, to their detriment." The players said that "not once were they warned about the potential dangers." The players added that there was "a general disregard for their health." Armour writes this "won't be as easy a case as the concussion lawsuit" (USA TODAY, 5/21). SPORTSNET's Jordan Heath-Rawlings wrote, "The league can't really afford another loss. Not on this topic. Not now." This new suit is "something of a well-timed body blow." The league has "not yet officially settled the last one, and with the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, there’s a small window in which the national football media horde will have nothing substantial to talk about." This suit gives them the "chance to resurrect and put into print all the worst things they’ve suspected about how the game is really played" (SPORTSNET.ca, 5/20).
THE SURVEY SAYS...: In DC, Rick Maese notes drugs aimed at treating pain have "long been a part of the NFL." As part of a "five-part series examining medicine in the NFL last year," the Washington Post surveyed "more than 500 former players and one in four said he felt pressure from team doctors to take medication he was uncomfortable with." Nearly nine in 10 reported "playing games while hurt, and an overwhelming number -- 68 percent -- said they did not feel like they had a choice but to take the field" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/21).
MEDIA MONITOR: The new lawsuit was the second report on this morning's editions of ABC's "GMA" and NBC's "Today," while CBS' "This Morning" led with the lawsuit. Last night's editions of ABC's "World News," CBS' "Evening News" and NBC's "Nightly News" all led with the lawsuit (THE DAILY). ABC's Robin Roberts called it a "bombshell lawsuit against the NFL." ABC's Jim Avila spoke live with the show's co-hosts, then aired a taped report. ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams then discussed the suit live in-studio, noting this lawsuit is "theoretically more dangerous to the league than the concussion case because it could encompass a lot more retired players" ("GMA," ABC, 5/21). CBS' Jim Axelrod was live in-studio and said the lawsuit "paints quite the ugly picture of an alleged drug culture inside the NFL" ("CBS This Morning," 5/21). NBC's Matt Lauer said it is a "troubling new lawsuit facing" the NFL, with NBC's Ron Mott reporting live from Foxboro ("Today," NBC, 5/21). Paul Silverman, one of the attorneys for the former players, appeared on NBC and said, "What you have in the NFL is a bunch of anesthetized gladiators … and the NFL is simply putting profit before players" ("Nightly News," NBC, 5/20).