SBD/July 10, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Analysis: Revised Concussion Settlement An Important Step To Maintaining NFL's Prosperity

Many view the removal of challenge limitations as a win for the NFL
THE MMQB's Andrew Brandt reviews the NFL's revised concussion settlement and writes it was an "important step towards resolution of what I saw as a viable threat to the NFL's continued unsurpassed prosperity." Brandt writes he "always thought this case would settle," as team owners "wanted to curb the negative publicity, remove the threat of billions of dollars of exposure, and have no admission of liability." From the players’ perspective, the "focus of this suit has always been the players suffering the most, the ones without the luxury of time." Without "years to litigate, settlement became a clear strategy." Once settlement "became the preferred option it became a negotiation, nothing more and nothing less." The NFL, however, was "able to wrangle a 'win' in the amended settlement: they can now challenge any player claim, removing the limitation on its number of challenges." Brandt: "I see a lot of bitterness from many retired players about the way things ended in their career, with a sense they deserved more: more playing time, more money, more respect, etc. Unfortunately, this settlement will not answer many of those players’ issues." And the NFL’s "now unlimited 'audit rights' to challenge what they see as purely lawyer-driven claims is meant to ferret out frivolous claims." Even with the "improvement of removing the cap on funding, there are still players upset with the amended settlement." Brandt: "With thousands of former players, I would expect more objections and 'opt outs' of this class action to pursue their own litigations against the NFL." However, they will "face the same challenges of delay and causation discussed above" (MMQB.SI.com, 7/10). Meanwhile, ESPN's Jeff Saturday, who played in the NFL for 14 seasons, said not having a cap in the settlement is "really the key for me." Saturday: "It shows players, 'Listen, if we have responsibility, we'll step up to it and take care of it'" ("NFL Live," ESPN2, 7/8).

OWNERS FEEL FORTUNATE: ESPN's Ed Werder said NFL owners "feel fortunate that they were able to resolve what was the most fearsome litigation pending against the league" and that they were "able to do it without going through the discovery phase that might have provided NFL players a significant amount of information about what doctors knew and when they knew it about the long-term effects of these injuries and, for the most part, these settlements are going to be protected and paid for by the insurance companies." ESPN's James Walker said the key was the owners not having to go through the "discovery phase, that was really the Pandora's box" for the NFL ("NFL Insiders," ESPN2, 7/8).

A FAIR DEAL? ESPN's Tony Kornheiser noted perhaps the "most controversial aspect of this settlement ... is that if you want to claim money for having died from the brain disease CTE, you better have already died." Kornheiser: "Nobody who dies as a result of CTE from now on will be compensated." ESPN's Michael Wilbon added it "just seems to me to be unconscionable on some level." However, if the case is made that the compensation "goes to people in the stages before you get to death, then maybe that is well served." Kornheiser wondered why the players agreed to the settlement, as it "seems on the face of it totally unfair." He said, "We all believe that there is a connection between football and this disease." Kornheiser added, "One reasonable answer would be that there are other diseases perhaps on the way to CTE and you can get compensated for them in the now" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/8). 
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