NFL Settles Concussion Lawsuits for ‘Pocket Change’

The NFL has struck a $765 million deal with the 18,000 ex-players suing the league over concussion-related brain injuries.

It’s “pocket change” for the league, says NFL retiree Brent Boyd, an original plaintiff in the lawsuit.

With the league bringing in around $9 billion a year, Boyd has a point.

The NFL has 20 years to pay the full amount of the settlement. So by the time the settlement money has been paid in full, the league will have generated upwards of $180 billion in revenues.

Here’s what $180 billion looks like next to the $765 million in settlement money (thanks to sports blogger Reuben Fischer-Baum for the visual):

The lawsuits accused the league of hiding known risks of the concussions suffered on the field. The NFL’s potential liability was originally assessed at more than $2 billion, “a total that struck fear among owners and gave rise to Armageddon scenarios that threatened the existence of the league,” writes one ESPN reporter.

The tentative settlement was announced just days before the start of the 2013 season. It is credited with saving the game.

Most of the settlement money will go to more than 4000 former players suffering the effects of brain injury:

  • Those diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease will be awarded up to $5 million.
  • Families of those diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) will be awarded up to $4 million.
  • Those suffering from dementia will be awarded up to $3 million.

The balance of the payout, a slim $85 million, is to be spent on baseline medical exams and continued research and education.

The NFL has ensured that the settlement is not an admission of liability. The NFL maintains that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by football.

But as ex-player Kevin Mawae says, the settlement is “$700 million worth of hush money that [the NFL] will never have to be accountable for.”

Others believe the timing of the settlement is more important than the dollar amount. By settling now, those in need of immediate medical care will get the support they need.

Junior Seau, former linebacker for the Chicago Bears, committed suicide last year. He was suffering from the effects of CTE after numerous concussions in his career. His death is said to be a contributing factor in achieving the settlement.

“This agreement will get help quickly to the men who suffered neurological injuries. It will do so faster and at far less cost, both financially and emotionally, than could have ever been accomplished by continuing to litigate,” said Christopher Seeger, lead lawyer acting for the players.

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Nicholas Tsoi
Nicholas Tsoi joined Slater Vecchio in August 2011. Nicholas has represented clients in the Provincial and Supreme Courts of British Columbia and the British Columbia Court of Appeal.