The National Football League (NFL) filed motion papers yesterday in Federal Court in Philadelphia, seeking to have the multiple lawsuits brought against the league for their fraudulent conduct in hiding the dangers of the risks of concussion dismissed. The league argues that these lawsuits must be dismissed, not because the allegations in the complaint are inaccurate or untrue, but because of contractual collective bargainning agreements that govern the issues.
The fraud and lies perpetrated by the National Football League in their management of the epidemic of concussions in professional football needs to be exposed and remedied. Not only for the benefit of the NFL players, but more importantly for the thousands of children, who look to the NFL players as role models.
Medical science repudiated the misconception that concussions are not brain injuries more than 30 years ago. Research has repeatedly confirmed that traumatic brain injury has cognitive, behavioral, social and emotional consequences. Yet, the NFL steadfastly continued to ignore the warnings and consequences of brain trauma despite these impartial findings. The sad truth is that innocent children have been and are continually exposed to the danger of brain trauma because of the NFL’s misleading conduct.
The league fraudulently created the mild traumatic brain injury safety committee ostensibly to protect players. The NFL has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the accumulated and overwhelming medical link between head trauma, concussions, and disability, in administering the league’s disability plan. Conspiring with their physicians, the league has engaged in a pattern of civil racketeering, wrongly depriving players’ of due process, and a full and fair opportunity to obtain disability benefits, including medical and rehabilitation care.
The current wave of suits provide no redress for wrongful denial of disability benefits. Contract changes are vital to remove the disincentive for players to hide their symptoms. It is essential that concussion disabled players receive full contract and disability benefits to provide adequate compensation and provide optimum brain injury rehabilitation for retired and current players who have sustained a traumatic brain injury.
The NFL must be compelled to reopen the files of players whose disability claims have been wrongfully denied and apply a fair set of standards to reevaluate these claims.
The current suits do not seek to redress the league's deliberate misconduct denying players' contract disability benefits, but rather aim to penalize the league for morally reprehensible conduct - failing to design safe concussion management protocol. Failure to acknowledge scientific evidence and institute proper return-to-play protocol is not equivalent to legal liability. The failure to fulfill the terms of a guaranteed benefit plan, however, does expose the league to liability.
The league continues to ignore the warnings and consequences of brain trauma despite these impartial findings. Players who deliberately ignore symptoms and knowingly assume the associated risks in exchange for short-lived glory must share in the responsibility for the current crisis. This bargain includes a long-term disability plan ostensibly intended to provide lifetime medical benefits and economic compensation. The league's intransigent and systematic denial of brain injury disability retirement applications precludes brain injured players from receiving these benefits.
Earlier this year, similar comments of mine were published in the New York Daily News, Lawyers assert NFL needs to do more to address needs of players who suffer concussions.