Next week the National Football League begins play in earnest, and across the nation millions of Americans will welcome another season of this thrilling, but violent, sport.
But this season will be different. It is the first in which the NFL has financially conceded that the brain-rattling hits that give football its powerful and, for the NFL, immensely lucrative appeal, may be taking a serious toll on players. Last week, the league agreed to pay $765 million to settle legal claims [auth] brought by more than 4,500 players and their families over concussion-related brain injuries.
The settlement, which will cover all 18,000 former NFL players, was reached by court-appointed mediators.
Yet the federal judge who must approve the settlement, Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia, could provide more help for past, current and future players at all levels of football by rejecting this tentative agreement.
For one, the settlement is too small. The NFL will generate a projected $10 billion in revenue this year. Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said he wants revenue to reach $25 billion by 2027. Should a payment of less than $1 billion — notably without an admission of guilt — be enough to make the long-term consequences of the NFL’s game go away?
Secondly, the settlement does more to slow progress on the problem than to resolve it.
The settlement provides $10 million for research into football-related brain injuries. Much more is needed to ascertain the safety of the game as it is played not only in the NFL, but also at all levels down to youth football.
The NFL and contact sports at all levels have stopped dismissing hits to the head as simply having one’s “bell rung.”
For all the money generated by the NFL, surely more than $10 million can go to studying and preventing brain injuries that are obvious, documented and ongoing.
News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.