The Super Bowl is over, so now the really big game begins. And it’s a head-knocker.
On one side we have the raiders. No, not Oakland, but the trial lawyers, who delight in raiding everything good in America. They are representing former NFL players against the evil empire, aka the National Football League. At stake? Upwards of $10 billion, and possibly, the existence of the NFL itself.
And what is the nerve center of this lawsuit that has the plaintiffs so mad they’re seeing double? Why would these former players, given a life of royalty by the NFL, now want to ring the league’s bell?
They suffered concussions playing football. No lie. That’s actually the basis of the lawsuit. The sheer stupidity of that makes you wonder if they really did get hit too many times. It would seem, therefore, that their motive is rooted elsewhere. In the preferred legalistic nomenclature, they’re looking for a handout.
Maybe they’re bitter because they didn’t play in the era of massive contracts. Maybe it’s because they can’t function as “regular” guys after being worshipped for so long. Others may feel lost. But their commonality is thinking they are entitled to something.
The outcome of this lawsuit should be a “no-brainer.” But given the insanity in America’s civil legal system, a jackpot jury award is definitely possible. (NFL Properties and helmet maker Riddell are defendants, too.)
The players claim the NFL hid information linking football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries. In addition to monetary damages, they want the NFL to assume responsibility for the medical care involved for those players suffering from those health problems.
Here’s an objective look:
1. This sense of entitlement is not just misguided, but inappropriate. No one forced players to sign lucrative contracts and become celebrities. They’re big boys, and chose their profession, with its risks, of their own free will.
2. And there are plenty of risks. Football is not a contact sport; it’s a collision sport, an intensely violent profession. Pads and helmets minimize injuries, but never totally prevent them. The NFL is not flag football, but one with punishing hits. Players can take it or leave it. Not surprisingly, they take it. Always.
3. The take-no-personal-responsibility attitude so prevalent in America is once again on full display. Players knew the risks, reaped immense rewards, yet now are blaming the NFL for their issues.
Are we really supposed to believe that the NFL willfully engaged in a grand conspiracy to keep players in the dark about the effects of hard tackling? To swallow that, we must assume that the league had every doctor in the country on the take, preventing them from speaking to players who had questions about concussions. And that it somehow inhibited medical professionals from conducting research into concussions and brain injuries.
4. Did we know as much about concussions back then? No. Is there a concerted effort now to better understand brain trauma and make sports safer? Absolutely. That’s not malfeasance. It’s progress.
5. Does the league’s culture glorify big hits on NFL films, and encourage playing through injuries? Yes, but so what? Most players proudly gut it out, not to secure the next contract but because they love the game. An admirable choice, but a choice nonetheless.
6. Where does it end? Should a firefighter who gets burned sue the department? Is a baker responsible for an obese donut eater’s diabetes? Should those with carpal tunnel syndrome have legal standing to sue their company?
Some jobs have higher risks, such as playing NFL football. But given the rewards, it’s an acceptable risk to players — past and present. And regarding former players claiming they would’ve opted out had they had today’s knowledge — give us a break. Not a chance.
7. The NFL (and the Players Association) has spent more than a billion dollars on pensions and medical and disability benefits for retired players.
The NFL also operates health programs for current and former players, and offers medical benefits to former players, including joint replacement, neurological evaluations, and spine treatment programs, assisted living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program, according to the league. Equipment has improved, and safety has increased, including outlawing certain hits.
Is it sad that some former players have trouble living a “normal” life? Sure. Is it a tragedy when a few commit suicide? Absolutely. But it’s time to stop blaming others for their situations and look in the mirror. Players made their choices, and most lived a dream.
But it’s a personal foul to ruin the game not just for current and future players, but for those who allow the league, and its former players, to be successful: fans.
And you don’t need your head examined to see that.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Friendly Fire Zone. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.
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