If you were hoping that the proposed NFL concussion settlement in the case between the NFL and former players would bring about the end of the long legal process, it appears that will not be the case just yet. On Wednesday, seven former NFL players filed a 47 page rejection stating that the revised settlement was “anything but fair”.
The main objection is due to the fact that the settlement does not award compensation to former players suffering complications from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Instead, a player must be diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementia, or other severe neurological diseases in order to qualify for monetary compensation.
The proposed settlement would not cover any player still active in the NFL at the time the settlement is accepted by a judge. Current retired players could also opt out of the settlement, but there is very little reason for any of them to do this.
The objection also states that the process in which players must file a claim with the NFL is overtly confusing, and specifically designed to limit the number of players that are eligible for compensation. For example, they are ineligible if they do not register with the claims administrator within 180 days of initial notice. The objection accuses the NFL’s lawyers of creating a deliberately complex process of earning compensation that will only serve to limit the number of payouts and claims. They also believe the fees will earn the NFL $112.5 million.
All players, regardless of whether they sued the NFL, are eligible for a free comprehensive cognitive medical exam. It appears they will have to use doctors that are approved by the NFL, or the NFL will have final authority over whether a player will get compensated or not. If a player challenges the NFL’s award decision, they must pay $1,000 in legal fees (which is refunded if the player wins), whereas the NFL does not have to pay anything.
So while the cap on payouts was removed in the latest settlement (initially $765 million), a sticking point for US District Judge Anita Brody, a lot of the decision power still rests with the NFL.
Left out of the settlement are players who played in the NFL Europe League. While they served under the NFL name, any brain injuries sustained playing over seas are not eligible for compensation.
The other issue is that as it currently stands, only players with specific medical conditions will be awarded compensation. If a player has lost some of their mental acuity due to what they believe were concussions sustained while playing in the NFL, unless they are diagnosed with dementia, they are not eligible.
Former offensive lineman, Ross Tucker and now current host of the Ross Tucker Football Podcast, voiced his concern on a podcast last week (prior to the seven players objecting to the settlement) regarding the ineligibility of some players who have severe cognitive impairment, but have not yet been diagnosed with a neurological disease:
Think about how messed up you have to be to actually get any money. I think that the guys who have cognitive impairment, 50% of what their memory was before, I’d certainly like to think those guys would get some money.
The proposed settlement states that each player would be entitled to up to $5 million in compensation. Severe conditions like ALS will be granted as much as $5 million, families of cognitively damaged players who committed suicide can receive up to $4 million, cases of diagnosed dementia can earn up to $3 million, and smaller diagnosed ailments will earn smaller payouts.
It appears that a 45-year-old diagnosed with dementia would get the same payout as an 80-year-old diagnosed with the same condition. This appears fair at first glance, as it seems logical that the condition, and not a person’s age should affect the payout. However, this is not true. It may seem insensitive, but a 45-year-old has a longer life ahead of him and will require more compensation than someone in the final years of their life.
A judge will now have to decide whether the players’ objection to the proposed settlement is valid. If so, the NFL and the players will have to go back and come up with a compensation process that is easier and more clear for players, as well as fair. The removal of the cap on compensation was a step in the right direction for players, but the power still lies with the NFL, and it is clear that the players suffering from ailments due to cognitive damage may not get the level of compensation they are due.