From the beginning of the NFL’s concussion litigation woes, there were many who proclaimed the lawsuits brought by 4,500 former players over brain injuries would never see a courtroom. It appears they were right, as the NFL and the former players have reached a settlement which will see the NFL and its properties contribute $765 million to provide medical benefits and injury compensation for retired players, fund medical safety research, and cover the expenses of litigation.
According to NBC Sports, the settlement is still pending approval by the overseeing U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, but is expected to be approved. The agreement was reached during court-ordered mediation with U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips.
“This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football,” Judge Phillips said in a statement. “Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that, if approved, will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed. I am deeply grateful to Judge Brody for appointing me as mediator and offering me the opportunity to work on such an important and interesting matter.”
While $765 million is not an unsubstantial amount of money, it is also easily affordable by the NFL who many argue is coming out of the litigation better off than the former players. These players who brought the lawsuit will see tangible help with medical expenses and treatment for long-term brain damage, but the league is avoiding a drawn out, PR damaging lawsuit. They are also avoiding having to release large amounts of information which could potentially hold damning information about how the NFL actually managed brain injury.
Many estimate the lawsuit could have cost the league billions if it had proceeded.
The settlement also puts the NFL in a comfortable position moving forward. While the reports about the serious nature of TBI in the NFL won’t be going away any time soon, the league can now point to the settlement as an indicator of positive handling of brain injury. They can also use the research they are funding through the settlement to suggest they are investing even more than they already are towards preventing brain injury in the future.
In a way, the settlement allows the league to acknowledge wrongdoing to the players who have been hurt over decades of violent games, while still keeping a clean image for the public. It allows them to apologize to past players, while not obligating them to make any changes that could “damage” the game (by more actively protecting players).