After Hall of Famer Junior Seau took his own life as a result of CTE in 2012, at age 43, his family chose to sue the NFL individually instead of participating in the broader settlement that has become a nightmare for players with football-induced brain trauma. Six years later, the league has finally agreed to pay the Seaus as part of a settlement.
Seau’s four children had objected to the league’s class-action settlement, which covers up to $4 million per player, depending on age and diagnosis, in part because it did not specifically compensate them for their wrongful-death claim. While terms of the family’s settlement with the league were not released, the Seau case had brought more negative attention to the NFL than most—especially after the Hall of Fame denied his daughter Sydney’s request to give a speech on her father’s behalf at his induction ceremony—meaning the family likely will get more than the $4 million they could have received otherwise. They also are still pursuing legal action against helmet maker Riddell.
Seau’s death was a landmark event for NFL discussions about CTE; he was just three years post-retirement and an icon in San Diego, where he played most of his career. One remaining question about the settlement between the NFL and the Seaus is whether it will allow the family to speak publicly about the role of football in his suicide, which they said at the time was a primary goal. “The family want to know why this settlement seems designed for expediency for the NFL and to ensure that information doesn’t come out,” attorney Steven Strauss said when they opted out. “And the Seau family wants the truth to come out.” Now we’ll find out if they’ll have that chance.