Many personalities around the game, from players and coaches to pundits, often former players and coaches themselves, has seen fit to decry in recent years that ‘the game is under attack’, lamenting over this complaint or that complaint as accusations and lawsuits continue to mount against the NFL.
There have been a number of lawsuits against the league already as it pertains to their role in failing to disclose their full knowledge of the long-term health effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), among other things. There is already a settlement in one case worth in the hundreds of millions that is still in the process of being resolved.
But another front against the league is seemingly continuing to build steam, and it is one that some believe could be even more costly for the league—at least financially, in terms of a suit. Earlier this month, a suit brought forth from a group of more than 1500 former players was able to get through a motion to have it dismissed. It is the second case brought, this time against the teams themselves, after a weaker case against the league as a whole was dismissed.
The allegation? That “NFL teams and their training staffs dispensed powerful drugs while misleading them about the health risks”. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s very similar to the case brought about regarding the league’s misleading players about the effects of concussions. It is also a topic that has recently been championed by Eugene Monroe as he fights for further medicinal marijuana research and an end to the prescription of opioids for players.
The lawsuit alleges that the conduct of the teams and their medical staffs was “intentional”, rather than “negligent”, and contends that players “were routinely and indiscriminately given powerful painkillers, often without prescriptions or even a cursory exam, to mask pain and injuries and get them back on the field without regard for their long-term health”.
Among coaches named in the suit that are said to have threatened players with termination if they refused to take painkillers in order to resume practice or play are Don Shula, Mike Holmgren, and Mike Tice.
The lawsuit is currently entering the discovery phase during with the plaintiffs and their representatives have the opportunity to research their case with access to the teams. The league settled the concussion lawsuit aforementioned before it reached the discovery phase, perhaps in order to avoid revealing more incriminating evidence, and that may be the route that this case ultimately takes as well if it advances far enough.
The subject of painkillers is an increasing important one not just in professional sports, but around the country, as an opioid epidemic claims the lives of over 10,000 in the United States every year. An industry in which expensive investments—the players—are consistently subjected to injury with demands to perform at a high level may make them particularly susceptible to growing dependent upon opioids and suffer long-term consequences, or even death, from its usage.