2,000 former players to sue NFL

Submitted by 1464 on June 7th, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Title says it all.  2,000 former NFL players are expected to file a class action lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that the NFL covered up information that their product caused head injuries.  This is the biggest class action lawsuit that players have brought against any pro sports league.





June 7th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

But I agree with you that there is always a chance with a sympathetic judge who relies on his emotions more than on logic and rationality. Look, it was only maybe 5 years ago that all of us referred to what we now know was a concussion (using our greater knowledge given more medical publicity on this issue) as "getting your bell rung." That was simply common thought during the times these players are talking about. It's ridiculous to think there was some sort of conspiracy. People thought, once you got over your dizziness, that you were ready to go back in the game. Everything doesn't have to be somebody's fault--I feel for players who are messed up now, just like I feel for boxers that have problems, but that doesn't mean people owe them money or were conspiring against them.

MI Expat NY

June 7th, 2012 at 1:23 PM ^

You can't say that.  We have none of the facts.  You're simply assuming that what "we" knew 5 years ago was also what the NFL knew.  

I agree that the further players go back in time, the harder it will be to prove that the NFL knew about the extended risk of concussions (meaning, beyond the immediate effects), but it's not far fetched to think that researchers on the cutting edge of concussion research were informing the NFL of their findings long before those same findings made it to the general public.  Any players playing after that point might have a strong case depending on what the NFL knew and when.  

Point is, it's premature to make any assesment of the plaintiffs' case prior to completion of the discovery process.  


June 7th, 2012 at 7:01 PM ^

True but we know more than we used to know about concussions. It seems pretty definitively established that there are negative effects to them. Also, you are missing his point; if the players' allegations are found to be true during the discovery phase of litigation, then why shouldn't they be entitled to collect? He is advising not to pass judgment on the case until the facts come to light during the discovery process. If your employer willfully covered up the harmful effects of your job performance and misled you to believe you were not being permanently or significantly harmed, why shouldn't you be entitled to damages? Let's wait until the players can either prove or not prove their allegations before we question the judgment of this lawsuit.

Section 1

June 7th, 2012 at 9:24 PM ^

All that this is, is a master complaint filed in what was approved mutlidistrict litigation under the federal rules of civil procedure.  Individual cases have already been pending, having been filed individually or in bunches, in other U.S. District Courts.

Here is how much your title "did not say it all"...



June 7th, 2012 at 6:50 PM ^

Profits from a faster-paced game with bigger hits. Remember when people thought Roy Williams was a good nfl S because he would light recievers up when they were often most vulnerable. He got lots of espn coverage for it. Also, did you read the article: if the former committee on head traumas was creating false information it would be doin it to get the injured players to play when they shouldn't. Your very incentive for the nfl would have been an incentive to mislead people about concussions for years.

Also, if the NFL committee on head traumas specifically created misinformation and false reports on head injuries what does that have to do with the NCAA? Your logic is flawed. Just because two institutions have similar rules does not mean that both are misleading people. Here is an analogy: two governments with very similar laws and structure, but one is corrupt to the core and the other is relatively just and follows its own rules and promotes the well-being of its people. Disclaimer: I don't actually think the NCAA is benevolent or more than a money sucking machine, and the nfl and the NCAA are not that similar.


June 7th, 2012 at 12:42 PM ^

The problem is that there are a bunch of other sports doing research in regard to this, so they can't cover it up.

Suing the NFL for this in one breath and the next making sure the guys who were putting bounties on their own Union Brothers heads reaks of hypocrisy.

I just don't know how you can sue, while trying to defend the same players against a bounty scandal.


June 7th, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

You actually need someone to explain to you that from the age of roughly 12 to 30 you're going to be running as fast as you can and hitting someone else who is running as fast as they can could possibly cause head injuries?

You had a chance to earn a ridiculous living for you and your family by playing a game, you took the risk. 

Football players could have easily used their free education to enter a different profession out of college.


June 7th, 2012 at 7:20 PM ^

Not every NFL player gets a chance to earn a ridiculous salary. There are lots of fringe guys who make minimum dollar-still like 250,000 a year. The average nfl career is about 4-5 years. Then one has to make a living elsewhere. Additionally, these are former players, and not too long ago pro athletes were not making as much money as they do now. Pro athletes have had an explosion in value the last couple decades. It is pretty well established that these kids aren't all taking advantage of their educations. These NFL guys who you say could have gotten their education also went to school not just to learn to get a career. They went to play football and try to go pro. Also, te NCAA doesn't really put academics first and, yes, the schools want their students to succeed, but the schools greater incentives are to win-see the SEC.

This situation isn't as cut and dry as you would make it. Of course the players knew that the game was/is dangerous. But, as the other response mentions, not everyone knew that small concussions can build up into long term brain damage. If the NFL knew that before everyone else and didnt reveal it or willfully misled its players, then it should be liable as any other company would be that fraudulently and intentionally misled it's players to their detriment-insert disclaimer about players being employees for their respective teams and not the NFL.


June 8th, 2012 at 3:42 PM ^

Just because they don't take their education seriously while they're going to school for free is their own stupid fault.

And a lot of people in this country would KILL to make $250,000 a year.

Why is it surprising that even minor hits to the head several 100 times could be detrimental to your health?

Punch yourself in the leg lightly enough that it doesn't hurt very bad.  Now keep hitting the same spot 100 times, guess what's going to happen?


June 7th, 2012 at 10:30 AM ^

You also have to assume the NFL has a duty to disclose those risks, that they did not disclose, and that the players did not sign an agreement assuming the risks and liability for their paid participation (although it is possible a waiver of liability could be unenforceable w/r/t gross negligence, etc.).

Blue in Yarmouth

June 7th, 2012 at 10:55 AM ^

If the medical teams have actual Dr.s on staff than and this were the case (which I am not saying it is) than they should be suing the Dr.s, not the NFL. Add to that the fact that as I said many times already in this thread concussions have only just started to be understood and I don't see how you could even make a case for that.


June 7th, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

Those doctors almost certainly work for the teams. You could sue the franchise, or the coaches, if they were involved, but I doubt any prodding of a player onto the field could be traced back to the NFL. Furthermore, you'e have to prove that their putting the player back in the game was unreasonable: which means not tjhat they made a reasonable error, but rather that they knew, or should have known, the player was unfit to play, and pushed him back in. Further muddled by the fact that players probably often want to get back into the game and say they're "ok," although at some point that cannot be relied upon over physical symptoms.


June 7th, 2012 at 11:26 AM ^

1) Employers are liable for the negligence of employees.There are exceptions to that rule but they are hard to show and are unlikely in this scenario.

2) I have no idea who you are, so when you say may times already that concussions are just beginning to be understood, you'll have to excuse me if I just consider you to be an anonymous guy on the internet and take your statement with perhaps an electron sized grain of salt. 




Blue in Yarmouth

June 7th, 2012 at 12:27 PM ^

I'm not a nuerologist, but am a cardiologist and because of my love of sports (football and hockey specifically) I have been following the developments in the research of concussion for some time. 

As to your first point I would have to say I disagree. I am not a lawyer but I would think that if an employer hired a Dr. who was passing along misinformation or was otherwise taking part in some sort of malpractice without the employers knowledge than it wouldn't be the employer who was at fault. It is the Dr. who has the expertise, not the employer. He hired the Dr. to look after the people because he (the employer) doesn't have the knowledge necessary to make those judgements.

I don't see it any different that the hospital that I work for. Technically they hired me so could be considered my employer in a loose sense. If I made mistakes it wouldn't be them who got sued, it'd be me.I just find it hard to believe that a court of any form would expect the employer to know more about concussions and their effects on players than a Dr...


June 7th, 2012 at 12:58 PM ^

No, if you did something bad it would be your employer who gets sued. This is because you don't have millions of dollars, but your employer does.  They would sue your employer for poor workplace environment, lack of employee training, etc.

Here's an example: if you get hit by a truck, your family can sue the trucking company for millions of dollars in damages if the trucker is an employee of the company.


Blue in Yarmouth

June 7th, 2012 at 1:07 PM ^

There is a bit of a difference between Dr.s and truckers. I don't know how it works in the USA but in Canada I am technically the employer (Dr.s are self employed) so the hospital doesn't get sued, we do. I am not sure that it would be similar in the NFL. They may well be considered the Dr.s employer. 


June 8th, 2012 at 7:00 AM ^

Yes, but a case by case analysis isn't needed if the claim is simply that the NFL and its members/employees withheld information regarding concussions and the players all suffered the same harm (i.e. diminished lifespan, quality of life, vitality, etc.)

We can debate the merits of the class action industry all you want, but it's a debate for another day. 


June 7th, 2012 at 10:16 AM ^

Players know what they are getting into when the play football. If they were that concered they shouldnt have played then. We all know the risks we take doing many things and we still go through with them. The only issue are when they are hidden risks. Nobody should have to be told that repeatedly slamming your head against things which gives you clear symptoms afterwards is bad. I agree there should be help for these guys by the NFL, but the rest of their claims are bogus to me. 




June 7th, 2012 at 10:21 AM ^

over the last couple decades is that humans are absolutely horrible at processing and evaluating risk (this is why some people don't wear seatbelts--something like 90% of drivers think they are above average drivers).  

This is especially true where they don't have complete information on those risks, which, I assume, is what the players will argue here.  


June 7th, 2012 at 10:27 AM ^

I understand their argument, but to me, you dont need a warning telling you knives can cut you, matches can burn you, or that the beating your body will take playing football will cause some issues. 

If the players win then it keeps sending a message to America that its not your fault you didnt think things through or didnt stop what you were doing, its someone else's fault. As a teacher I can tell you my students ALL think this way and its terrifying. 


June 7th, 2012 at 10:30 AM ^

is not the same as knowing the magnitude of the risk.  Saying "they knew that slamming into each other at high rates of speed would cause damage to their bodies" isn't the same as saying "they knew the full magnitude of the risks that researchers may now be uncovering" (though I know the research is still debated).  

Put another way: if people knew football turned people punch-drunk, why has that topic only really come out in the last couple years?


June 7th, 2012 at 10:36 AM ^

Exactly, why didnt it come out years before with suicide issues and brain issues. In my opinion, which is just an opinion and I could and oftne am wrong, its because of the economy and because of the mentality to blame everything on someone else and get paid for it.


June 7th, 2012 at 10:28 AM ^

Or that we are horrible at processing statistics.  The NFL has a decent sized body of former players, enough for a good comparison to the US as an aggregate.  I've not seen anything that compares percentage of former players who have depression with percentage of US citizens with the same characteristics that have been diagnosed the same way.  Same with suicides.

2-3 suicides in the NFL is akin to how many in the general population?  Is there a higher risk?  I guess I can plead ignorance, but it seems like a few cases get blown out of proportion.

Blue in Yarmouth

June 7th, 2012 at 10:32 AM ^

I agree that humans are not good at evaluating risks, but that doesn't make it someone elses fault when you decide to do something. You can't say "Humans are poor at evaluating risks so the NFL should pay these guys money since they were hurt".

The fact is they knew there was a risk and decided to do it anyway. I don't see there being the possibility of a cover-up here either. Concussions have not been well understood until the recent past and as knowledge was increasing, the rules of the game have been evolving. I don't see how they can win this case.



June 7th, 2012 at 10:33 AM ^

If people are bad at evaluating risks, it means the bureaucracy in charge needs to A. make those risks crystal clear and B. take what steps are available to mitigate those risks.

I have no idea whether the NFL did that here or not.  I'm not taking any position on the merits at all.  But the idea of the suit itself doesn't strike me as ridiculous.  Would anyone really be totally shocked if the NFL failed to release full information on health risks?

Blue in Yarmouth

June 7th, 2012 at 10:38 AM ^

but the fact that even today concussions aren't well understood makes it hard for me to imagine that the NFL has known more than they have been letting on over the past decade or so. The rules have been changing as new research has been done. It isn't like someone could say that the NFL hasn't made changes since head injuries have become better understood...at least IMHE they can't.