Former Players Move Forward On Historic Settlement With NFL

Jan 7, 2014
Originally published on January 7, 2014 8:40 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Before the start of this past National Football League season, more than 4,000 former players and their families settled a lawsuit that they had brought against the league over concussion-related injuries. Well, today, we're learning more details about what each player will receive as part of that multimillion-dollar settlement. NPR's Mike Pesca has been following the case and joins us to talk about it. Hi, Mike.


SIEGEL: What exactly came out today?

PESCA: Well, it was called - this is really a step, a tangible step in this process. It was called a - a memorandum of law, and it was to grant a preliminary approval of the class action settlement agreement. And it was really giving details, putting number dollar values correlated to injuries and conditions that NFL players - the suing players and their families have because of head injury and other head trauma.

SIEGEL: And what does all of this mean for the players who sued? What are the details?

PESCA: Right. So what the suit does is it lists a bunch of maladies, say ALS or Parkinson's disease or even people who died at a young age, and depending on how many years of service players had and how old the players are, gives a dollar amount. The highest would be an NFL player who is 45 years of age or under and played the requisite number of years who has ALS would get $4.5 million. Now, the older you get, the less money you'd get. And the reason for that is there's going to be just one lump sum payment for those who accept it.

So it's figured an 80-year-old person with ALS will just have fewer years to live. A younger person will need the money more. And as you go down the list, so ALS would pay the most, death pays $4 million, these are all the figures for player who played for awhile with - who are 45 and under. Parkinson's disease 3.5 million, level two dementia or Alzheimer's, 3 million, level one dementia, little bit less than that. And then they're at different scales.

SIEGEL: I gather the lawyers are to be paid $112 million. How did they arrive at that number?

PESCA: Well, this was asked at the - in the press conference that I listened in on, and there was a big boon of contention. And the lawyers said, you know, for a settlement this size, which is $675 million in compensatory fees and $75 million for testing and $10 million for research, that lawyers' fees of 112 million are pretty much in line with the total of about $900 million that the league will be paying out.

SIEGEL: Is there anyone, Mike, who is not covered by this suit?

PESCA: Yes. First of all, this suit sweeps in all retired players. So it doesn't have to be one of the players who was named in the suit or who brought suit. If you're in this category and you want in, you can get the money. Players who are playing now are not part of the suit. So that's an important point and that might be future litigation. And it's a different set of facts, I suppose. What the NFL knew and when they knew it is a different debate from the current generation of players to the players who retired before all this information about head injury and what the NFL knew about head injuries came out.

Now, as you said, Mike, this is a step...


SIEGEL: the process. The settlement is not final. What are the next steps after this one?

PESCA: Well, the - like you said, there are almost 5,000 family members and players who brought suit. There were, you know, 300 different suits. Not everyone's going to agree. And players have the right to opt out. And if they do opt out in small number, the feeling is that the judge will go ahead and allow this settlement to proceed. But if a huge number of players don't want to settle - and already, there are some parallel suits. You know, famous player like Craig Morton brought a different suit. Randle - Antwaan Randle El brought a different suit.

So that could be one of the things that the judge would say, no, this settlement is going forward, or there can be another reason. The NFL is onboard with this. This is both parties signing and agreeing to it but the judge still has to approve it.

SIEGEL: OK. Thanks, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Mike Pesca. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.