Retired Players Also Coming After NFLPA Over Concussions

The NFL has faced a number of lawsuits over the years from retired players for various reasons, primarily pertaining to matters concerning concussions and the league’s responsibility for their employees’ long-term health.

Recently, a settlement agreement was reached and at long last given preliminary approval, which uncaps the funds that the NFL is obligated to spend on the health and well-being of its retired players suffering from the various neurocognitive diseases that stem from frequent concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Recently, however, the NFL Players Association has now come under fire from two former players over their role in protecting players from concussions. It is the first such suit brought against the NFLPA.

The suit alleges that the Players Association is guilty of and culpable in many of the same practices that the league is accused of in its various lawsuits brought forth from and on behalf of retired players over the years.

For its part, the NFLPA naturally has stated that the lawsuit has no merit and that the association will aggressively defend itself.

This is, however, an interesting matter, as the suit includes as its evidence several choice quotes from NFLPA executive directors past and present, including current director DeMaurice Smith, whose previous statements seem essentially to indict the association in its past dealings with matters pertaining to concussions.

In the suit, Smith is quoted as saying before Congress the following in 2009:

There is simply no justification for the NFL to have previously ignored or discredited Dr. [Bennet] Omalu and others with relevant, valid research. For far too long, our former players were left adrift; as I emphasized at the last hearing, we were complicit in the lack of leadership and accountability, but that ends now.  I am here again to make it clear that our commitment is unwavering.

We were complicit in the lack of leadership and accountability” sounds like a pretty straightforward statement to me. While Smith was striving to prop up his own new regime by differentiating himself from past servitors of his post, in the process, he took down the whole association in acknowledging their role in what the league itself is frequently accused of.

That accusation is the systematic concealment, disregarding, or hindrance of concussion studies and research over the years. The report on the suit from Pro Football Talk highlights some of these cases.

In 1994, for example, the suit accuses the NFLPA of concealing the results of a National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety report that suggested further study on the frequent occurrence of ALS in retired players to establish a possible connection with the workplace environment.

It’s also worth pointing out that the objection submitted by seven retired players, including former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Alan Faneca, to the recent league settlement agreement alleges that the plaintiffs’ counsel did not work in their best interests, which includes not raising any concerns over the NFL’s history of stifling connections between the sport and brain trauma through the decades.

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