With the concussion lawsuit settled, what happens now?
That $765 million looks big, but the devil is in the details. According to Patrick Hruby, half of the money will be paid in the first three years, while the rest will be strung out over the next 17 years. It’s not that much money per player all things considered, and they get hurt in the long run with the time value of money unless the award is inflation adjusted. For players that are hurting and their families, any money, especially immediate money, is more than welcome and sorely needed. I truly hope it helps, and I can see why they would take this settlement.
For the NFL though, this is a fantastic deal. Despite what the league’s water carriers in the press say, $765 million over 20 years isn’t a big deal for a league with TV contracts in the billions. Even better, the league does not have to admit any wrongdoing whatsoever. Remember, the lawsuit wasn’t about football being “dangerous,” it was about the league allegedly hiding the effects of concussions on long-term health. The Atlantic and Deadspin have both outlined how the NFL has dealt with concussions over the years, but it’s an incomplete picture based only on what has become public. A trial discovery would have uncovered what the NFL knew about brain trauma and when they knew about it. Now the league doesn’t have to show any of that, and all for a fairly cheap price.
Despite the settlement, the concussion issue isn’t going away anytime soon, and at least some obvious and welcome reforms have been made. The days of headhunting and “Jacked Up!” are mercifully gone. The problem going forward is there’s only so much that can be done to make football safer for its participants. It’s an inherently violent game, and it’s still an inherently violent game, no matter what those complaining about the “sissification of football” say. This isn’t necessarily a short-term problem for football, and it isn’t necessary a problem for the professional ranks, since now it’s hard to say the players don’t know the risks and they do get paid at least. The problem remains long term. Football needs young people playing it to keep feeding the machine. It needs the kids that become the next high school stars and college stars and ultimately NFL stars. Will youth football participation go down? Will parents keep allowing their kids to play football? Will the kids themselves decide the risks are too great?
For those of us who are merely spectators, in theory the question should be “is football a good idea?” That is far from the conversation that is happening in reality. The complaints about the game becoming flag football far outweigh any other opinion about the concussion issue. This had led me to a very cynical conclusion. Most football fans do not give one damn about the health of football players. Not one damn. That, plus the sheer amount of money football generates, is why there really is no danger of football going away, at least not any time soon. We have seen what playing this game can do to people, and have collectively decided as a society that it is OK. Draw your own conclusions about what that says.