It’s been a bad month in court for the Washington NFL franchise.
In June, the team owned by Daniel Snyder lost its federal trademark protection. (The decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been appealed.) Now, the team has lost the first round of a fight regarding a bounty system allegedly used by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, a judge in Maryland declined to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former NFL linebacker Barrett Green against the team and tight end Robert Royal. Green contends he was deliberately injured by Royal under the bounty system maintained by Williams, who now serves as the defensive coordinator in St. Louis.
The team challenged the lawsuit as being filed too late and barred by the labor deal between the NFL and NFLPA.
“[T]he battery alleged here — a block intentionally designed to cause physical injury harm — could not conceivably be authorized under the CBA, and therefore is not inextricably intertwined with it,” the judge wrote, per Kaplan.
While it doesn’t mean Green will win, he has secured for now the ability to develop evidence to support his claims, including sworn testimony from Williams and the men who played for Williams in Washington and elsewhere.
Yes, playing football entails physical risk. But certain risks should not be tucked under that umbrella, such as the risk that someone will use the cover of football as a way to deliberately injure another player.
Could it open the floodgates for other lawsuits by players who believe they’ve been intentionally injured by opponents? Possibly. But not many cases will carry with them evidence of a bounty system aimed at rewarding, and thus enticing, efforts to knock opposing players out of a game.
It’s safe to say that, as to Williams’ past use of a bounty system, it’s unlikely that other lawsuits will be filed. More than two years have passed since the bounty program was exposed; in most American jurisdictions, the statute of limitations for injury cases stands at two years.
For anyone injured by a Gregg Williams bounty program, the clock began to tick no later than two years after the NFL disclosed that Williams had a bounty program in New Orleans, triggering a flurry of reports that Williams used a similar system in other cities, like Washington, Jacksonville, and Buffalo.