As currently constituted, the NFL's $765 million settlement with former players over the league's handling of brain trauma would not include those who died before 2006, according to Outside The Lines. As the plaintiffs include those who played as early as the 1940s, that means a large number of former players would be cut out—including those whose deaths sparked the outrage over the NFL's actions.
The former players were pressured into accepting a settlement that many wanted to reject, but at least it seemed straightforward: a sliding scale of payouts based on the level of disability caused by head injuries. But this latest news indicates that the families of the most affected players, those who died or killed themselves for reasons related to brain trauma, may not collect a thing.
In initial negotations for the settlement, the NFL pushed hard to exclude players who died before 2009/2010—two years before the first suits were filed, and therefore outside a disputed statute of limitations. The players' attorneys negotiated that deadline, back, but only to Jan. 1, 2006.
The family of Mike Webster, whose mind broke down before his death at age 50, and was the first former player to be diagnosed with CTE, wouldn't get a thing. Nor would the relatives of Justin Strzelczyk, who exhibited erratic behavior for months before driving his car into an oncoming 18-wheeler. Nor the family of Terry Long, who committed suicide by antifreeze.
The Washington Times's (incomplete) lawsuit database lists scores of players who died before 2006, and would not be eligible for compensation.
It gets worse: New research is continually turning up more instances of ALS, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's in the former players, which would qualify them for the highest tier of payouts. Now many plaintiffs and attorneys are wondering if the settlement includes enough money to compensate everyone.
"It is a very valid concern," said Jason Luckasevic, a Pittsburgh attorney who filed the first concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL in 2011 and represents about 500 former players. "It would appear as though there are not enough funds for those that are injured."
It gets even worse: despite initial reports that attorneys' fees would be covered by the NFL from a separate pool, many plaintiffs are bound to previously negotiated agreements—their lawyers' fees will come out of the main settlement, draining it further.
Negotiations for the final wording of the settlement are still ongoing, but the players are in a rough place. Many are anxious to salvage what they can rather than fight a legal battle that could long outlive them, but there are just too many affected players, not enough money to go around, attorneys ostensibly fighting for them who have a financial interest in the case being settled quickly, and the NFL fighting as hard as it can to exclude as many players as possible.
Players can opt out of the settlement. Many will. Many more should.
Some players may be out of NFL deal [ESPN.com]