Rub Some Dirt on It and Get Back Out There: The NFL Avoids Getting Its Hands Dirty with Concussion Litigation Settlement

Scott Fujita, who played linebacker in the NFL for ten years, has an essay today in The New York Times regarding the settlement the NFL reached with its former players (roughly 4,500) over the "concussion litigation."

Fujita expresses some mixed emotions about it. But one stark point remains: Because the case has been settled, there will be no more discovery (legal jargon for turning over relevant documents, depositions, etc.) in the case. This means that we will not find out anytime soon, if ever, what the NFL knew about the effects of concussions and, more important, when it knew "the what."

For example, it's almost unbelievable that the NFL's former research committee chair on concussions during the relevant time went to medical school in Mexico and is apparently not a neurologist. Given the settlement, this doctor will never have to raise his right hand in a deposition and give sworn testimony about the NFL's knowledge on concussions.

In one sense, the NFL had the players over the barrel. Many are suffering right now from serious neurological injuries and without the adequate funds and health insurance to pay for such. The current players, especially the young ones, are eager to just play and make some money (as Fujita notes).

We know the NFL is hyper-image-conscious, especially under the reign of Roger Goodell (although Goodell is often ham-handed in how he executes his duties; see, e.g., the Saints bounty scandal). But what is most disappointing about the settlement is this: The NFL was probably dirty for a long time, ignored what it knew about concussions, encouraged vicious hits and then, when it saw the writing on the wall with increased media attention to concussions and C.T.E., ducked out for what is a pittance to the NFL's billionaire owners.

I will still tune in on Thursday night to watch the Broncos and Ravens, but I might feel just a little compromised.

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