By Joe Giglio
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The $765 million settlement between the plaintiffs and the National Football League on Thursday was a boon for the league. It’s financially beneficial to the players profiling as victims of negligence and it keeps the league from spending money in litigation fees, along with months of awful publicity.
Yet, despite the settlement ending the lawsuit in it’s tracks, it’s impossible for NFL fans and future players to feel great about the agreement.
It feels more like a band-aid than a true fix to the overarching problem the NFL has on it’s hands: How to keep players safe when they are playing, and, possibly even more impactful, making sure their post-career lives are intact.
To be blunt, former players aren’t the issue for the league. Once a player is done, the league has already garnered enough of their respective talent, time and ability. The league can pretend to care about former players, but in reality it’s future athletes — or, in other words, current kids — that will make the league a powerhouse moving forward.
If the players “won” a settlement on Thursday, future players lost.
The ability to settle with former players has halted a lawsuit that may have exposed more of what the NFL has known for decades. The fact that the information and testimony won’t come out here is a detriment to the most popular game in America.
Information is key to keeping players safe, improving the rules toward that goal and implementing them before the game becomes too unsafe for future generations to embrace.
NFL fans wouldn’t have been thrilled about becoming inundated with daily reports from outside courtrooms, talk about the sport off the field and the fight for information on head injuries overshadowing the 2013 season, but it was a necessary evil. Now, that process has been destroyed.
Without admitting any wrongdoing, the NFL is able to write a large check and make the issue of player safety in the past, present and future a small topic, while making next week’s season-opening kickoff a major one.
Instead of revealing exactly what they knew or didn’t know about debilitating head injuries in the past, the NFL can pretend information didn’t exist until just a few years ago.
The only way the sport can survive and thrive into the future is by learning from the past, but Thursday’s settlement is akin to burying the past under a sea of millions.
Paying ex-NFL stars for irrevocable head trauma shouldn’t have been the result of litigation.
Instead, putting the richest professional sports league in America on the stand to defend itself against negligence would have set the stage for stiffer regulations and accountability in the future.
Moving forward, an edict has been delivered to the plaintiffs, scorning the next generation of injured NFL stars: Promise of protection and full disclosure of what the NFL body is going through shouldn’t be counted upon. Only reparations can be.
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