Powerful NFL wins again with chump-change concussion settlement
Just as it did after its lockout with the players union, the NFL winds up the big winner in its settlement with former players. The $765 million is no big deal for billionaire owners.
If the NFL has proven nothing else over the years, it's that it generally gets its way. When it comes to legal matters, collective bargaining issues and the powers of the commissioner, the league is difficult to defeat.
The settlement in the head trauma lawsuit involving thousands of players is the latest example. Sure, $765 million sounds like a lot of money, but with the business of the NFL better than ever and the new TV contract just kicking in and labor costs fixed through this 10-year CBA and young talent on their rookie contracts cheaper than ever, well, trust me, this is chump change.
With 32 teams in the league, that's $24 million per team, and with half of this payment due in three years and the rest over the following 17 years, this will barely impact billionaires like NFL owners. Yes, for the players, it's better than nothing, but how many will be alive in 20 years, what kind of shape will they be in? As usual, the people who will definitely benefit in the short term are the lawyers involved.
Conversations with NFLPA officials and agents produced a similar sentiment: "It's cheap," one official texted me. "The NFL wins again."
What the NFL truly gains from this as well is that the settlement language makes it explicitly clear it "cannot be considered an admission of liability," and they avoid the legal system. There is no discovery process to be laid out in public -- there is no process to reveal what they knew, when they knew it and how they responded to it. One would presume this settlement would make it pretty difficult to get a similar lawsuit off the ground in the future.
If this case had gone to trial it could have been a massive public relations pox on the league, and perhaps also created a climate where the future growth of the game at the grassroots and youth levels could be imperiled by fears over what the game can do the brain. And, if the players were able to fully prove their case -- a very big if, admittedly -- the awards could have been in the billions, putting them in a position of leverage.
Certainly, the money paid out here and the creation of a $10 million education and research fund can't hurt further discoveries about this issue, but at the NFL level, with the kinds of revenue streams and money flowing in, this is a relative hiccup. The money it saves the league and the possible revelations it prevents, and what it does to help secure the future of football as America's dominant sporting obsession, is worth so much more.
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