After months of spotty spin control as a stream of concussion lawsuits were filed by former players against the NFL, the lawyers who filed a “master complaint” on Thursday used the occasion for a master stroke of P.R. genius.
They managed to use a basic requirement in federal multi-district litigation to attract significant attention to claims that already had been filed, and that for the most part already had been talked about.
In April, a federal judge in Philadelphia entered “Case Management Order No. 2,” which among other things outlines 10 “key dates” from early May through late November. By June 8, “Plaintiffs must submit a master administrative complaint and an agreed upon short form complaint.”
Instead of simply preparing the paperwork, which reiterates claims that already had been made, the lawyers caught the eye of the media with press releases and a press conference that included former NFL fullback Kevin Turner, who now has ALS.
It worked. News stories regarding the cases, including city-specific accounts of claims from men who played for the local NFL franchise, have spiked in the past 24 hours, all because the lawyers used a mundane date on a routine scheduling order as the occasion to attract attention to a cause that is hardly fresh.
The NFL nevertheless has provided a new statement, in light of what surely was an uptick in requests for a response. “Our legal team will review today’s filing that is intended to consolidate plaintiffs’ existing claims into one ‘master’ complaint,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, via Albert Breer of NFL Network. “Any allegation that the NFL has sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s many actions to protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
Though the lawyers representing the players have many hurdles to overcome in the coming months, if they handle the legal aspects as well as they handled the P.R. duties this week, they’ll be hard to beat.