The lawsuit brought against the NFL by some 4,500 former players was settled early Thursday morning. In a conference call later that day, co-lead counsel for the retired players Christopher Seeger spoke about the incentive to come to an agreement with the NFL rather than battle the league in court.
“The truth is, we really had only one goal from day one, and that was to get medical benefits and compensation to the players as quickly as possible – not 10, 15 years from now,” Seeger said.
The settlement accomplishes that goal to the tune of some $765 million, the precise distribution of which is still to be determined.
And what did the NFL buy with that money? SI.com’s Michael McCann feels they got plenty.
“They’re able to end the litigation, end the controversy surrounding concussions – at least in the immediate sense – and prevent the possibility that during discovery, had there been no settlement and the litigation continued, there could have been discovery where unflattering documents were revealed about the NFL and some of its officials from the ’80′s and ’90′s that embarrassed the league, and may even have triggered members of Congress to hold hearings,” McCann said.
Given that the NFL grosses between $9 and $10 billion annually, and that the settlement will be paid over a period of years, the league didn’t take a terrible hit. But as McCann points out, at least the retired players most in need of assistance will be compensated in a relatively timely fashion:
“It is true that the players are not going to get enough money,” McCann said. “There’s no way of getting around that. But I don’t know if not settling and instead going to court, where they could have lost, or even if they had won, the case could have been reversed on appeal – there are a number of moments when they could have lost everything, the players, and gotten nothing.”
Will the settlement change anything more? One of the plaintiffs, Isaiah Kacyvenski, who played six years in the league and retired in 2006, hopes so.
“The whole point is the game needs to be made safer, and is this enough to make the game safer?” Kacyvenski said. “Is this the impetus for change around that?”