The NFL has reached a $765 million deal with a group of more than 4,500 former players – one third of all former NFL athletes – in a lawsuit that claims the NFL hid the dangers of the sport, the Associated Press has reported. The federal judge overseeing the settlement said the money will go to medical exams, concussion-related compensation and medical research.
According to the players' accusations, the NFL had known that the repeated hits to the head, often resulting in concussions, caused long-term brain damage, yet failed to properly warn the players. The NFL has insisted it had been up front with its players according to what medical research had proven. Furthermore, the NFL contended, safety concerns are addressed in collective bargaining between players, their unions and the individual teams. A judge ordered the lawsuit into mediation in July. At least 10 Pro Football Hall of Famers were included in the lawsuit, with a number of the plaintiffs contending they were now suffering neurological conditions due to head injuries sustained on the field.
The settlement comes as the NFL has faced increased scrutiny about the issue of concussions and their long-term effects. The high profile suicides of former players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson made suggestions that the sport leads to depression and dementia front page news. Before his 2012 suicide, Seau had been a part of the initial suit filed against the NFL in August, 2011.
Last week, the New York Times reported the NFL had pressured ESPN to pull out of a partnership with PBS for an upcoming documentary about the NFL's response its players' brain injuries called "League of Denial." With the timing of the deal, it appears that the NFL has settled the lawsuit ahead of its 2013 regular season, which starts next Thursday.