NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A judge dismissed a lawsuit against the NFL Wednesday, writing that the agreement between the league and the union should address the dangers involved when teams give painkillers to players.
Judge William Alsup of the U.S. Northern District in California cited a section of the Labor Management Relations Act in dismissing the claim. The issue is not one of law but is covered by collective bargaining between the league and the players’ union, the judge wrote.
“In ruling against the novel claims asserted herein, this order does not minimize the underlying societal issue,” Alsup wrote Wednesday. “In such a rough-and-tumble sport as professional football, player injuries loom as a serious and inevitable evil. Proper care of these injuries is likewise a paramount need.”
Alsup wrote that the main point of the order is “that the league has addressed these serious concerns in a serious way — by imposing duties on the clubs via collective bargaining and placing a long line of health-and-safety duties on the team owners themselves. These benefits may not have been perfect, but they have been uniform across all clubs and not left to the vagaries of state common law. They are backed up by the enforcement power of the union itself and the players’ right to enforce these benefits.”
Nine players were named as plaintiffs, including Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent. The judge gave them until Dec. 30 to file an amended complaint.
The lawsuit alleged the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players’ health, withholding information about injuries. At the same time they were handing out prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatories to mask pain and minimize lost playing time. Among other claims, the players contended prescriptions were filled out in their names without their knowledge.
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents conducted spot checks last month of at least five NFL visiting teams’ medical staffs as part of an ongoing investigation.
The San Francisco 49ers received a visit from federal agents after a Nov. 16 game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The probe was sparked by claims in the lawsuit from former players, including dozens who said the teams’ lax controls over dispensing painkillers continued until 2012.
Any violations of the Controlled Substances Act after 2009 could be used in a criminal investigation.
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