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Setback of NFL Concussion Deal Could Have Ticking Time Bomb - "Ghettoized" Sport?
It has been widely reported that Judge Brody - without even waiting for the filing of objections or a "fairness hearing" - has rejected a proposed $765 million settlement between the NFL and retired players seeking compensation. Here's one reason.
But there may also be a ticking time bomb in the order she issued - one which could affect the entire sport itself, not just the money - says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has talked with players and attorneys, and predicted that over 2,000 players will reject the deal even if it’s ever approved.
Somewhat hidden in a footnote, the judge announced that "I have additional concerns including . . . the release of the NCAA and other amateur football organizations. These concerns will also have to be addressed." The judge is referring to terms of the settlement requiring players "to dismiss pending and/or forebear from bringing litigation relating to cognitive injuries against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and any other collegiate, amateur, or youth football organizations and entities."
But the reasons why the NFL would insist on protecting the NCAA are unclear, says Banzhaf, who notes that experts have predicted that the deal could affect the very future of all football. “Some of our favorite games will probably look different in the near future,” predicts Bloomberg News, and Huffington Post predicted that "Health Care Issues Could Mean Collapse of NCAA as We Know It."
Also, in FRONTLINE's report on the problem ["League of Denial"], an NFL representative warns: "If only ten percent of mothers might be convinced that their sons should not play football, that is the end of football."
Another possibility being discussed is that the risks of football will finally become widely known, so that only “those poor or dumb enough to take the risk” will play. As a result, it will become “a ghettoized sport, not a mainstream American sport” - what some critics claim boxing has already become.
The NCAA has already been sued on behalf of former college football players, and many more such suits may be anticipated, especially if the NFL litigation provides insufficient compensation.
But, warns Banzhaf, if the NFL settlement is successful, and contains protection for the NCAA as well, young males thinking of playing football may never learn the full extent and magnitude of the concussion risks they are signing up for. Perhaps that exactly what those who profit from the game continuing to be so popular want, he says.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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Washington, DC 20052, USA
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