McNair: Owners “are not happy” with concussion settlement

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It’s widely believed that the NFL got a sweetheart deal in connection with the resolution of the concussion litigation, avoiding years of litigation and the possibility of a verdict that could have shaken the league to its foundation if not crumbled it. Indeed, some former players remain sufficiently unpersuaded about the fairness of the deal to fight its finalization all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But if anyone were to conclude that NFL owners are happy about the concussion settlement, they’d be wrong, according to Texans owner Bob McNair.

“Owners are not happy that [because] the NFL was the one with the deep pockets, so that’s who the plaintiffs’ lawyers went after,” McNair told Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. “They have not sued any of the colleges and the reason is simple: You sue the University of Alabama and go into Tuscaloosa, do you think a jury is going to give you an award against the University of Alabama? Forget it.”

He’s right about the willingness of a Tuscaloosa jury to ring the bell when otherwise chanting, “Roll Tide.” But those issues could have been navigated by skilled lawyers via the selection of the forum and the choice of the defendants. While the NFL may indeed have been targeted due to the depths of its pockets (and any plaintiffs’ lawyer who doesn’t pursue the deepest pockets is committing malpractice), the NFL also was deemed to be the most responsible for failing to do enough to protect players against the harms of head injuries.

Besides, the NFL could have joined the colleges as third-party defendants to the various class actions filed against the NFL, if the NFL believed that college football bore any real responsibility for the injuries allegedly suffered by players who weren’t properly warned about the risks or concussions and/or weren’t reasonably protected against concussions.

“We could have fought that, and my feeling, and the feeling of many of us was we would have lost very few of those individual cases because the burden is so high,” McNair added. “I mean, they would have to prove, No. 1, you received a concussion from playing football. No. 2, at what level, when did it occur? And they have played since they were a little kid, so was it in high school or junior high or college or the NFL? And to be able to prove that would be a tremendous, tremendous task. But we did recognize that there were some people who were having some problems and that we did not know enough about concussions and we were better off settling this, setting aside money to take care of these players.”

Again, McNair is right about the defenses that would have been available to the NFL. The league would have even more arguments beyond those mentioned by McNair, including the role of the NFL Players Association (which is/was the players) in disseminating information about concussions, the applicable statutes of limitation, and the one defense that drove the settlement: The protection against lawsuits arising from the existence of a collective bargaining agreement.

The decision to avoid a worst-case scenario that could have destroyed the league for an anticipated expenditure of up to $31.25 million per team over 65 years was a no-brainer, especially in light of the P.R. benefits that come from McNair being able to say “we did recognize that there were some people who were having some problems and that we did not know enough about concussions and we were better off settling this, setting aside money to take care of these players.” At an average of $480,000 per year over 65 years, if the total payout ends up being $1 billion, owners shouldn’t be happy about the outcome.

They should be ecstatic.

20 responses to “McNair: Owners “are not happy” with concussion settlement

  1. The colleges did not try to bury the concussion issue … the NFL owners and commissioners office did.

  2. As most NFL owners flirt with the “billionaire’ rating, they have likely been sued in the past, if for no other reason than they have deep pockets.
    To most fans, the NFL has more money than any other organization that has ever existed, except perhaps Apple or the Catholic Church, so they have little sympathy.
    Even so, Bob McNair appears to be a lot more indiscreet in his comments than most of the owners would prefer to see.

  3. Colleges shouldn’t get a pass on this, a lot of guys played more in college games than they did in the NFL. And you have moron head college coaches bringing in former pros to practice with their teams, so you know the practices are much more physical than in the NFL.

  4. I have heard zero talk about the design technology of helmets. Seems to me they could reduce concussions by 10% or more each year by continuing to modify the helmet and introduce new materials. NFL is a business of caring, right?

  5. The college bit does not change the NFL’s willful negligence.

    Read between the lines, folks.

  6. This guy should have saved himself some money and some embarrassment and simply donated to a research charity half of what he is paying Ossweiller and re-signed Hoyer

  7. Tone deaf, to the issues facing the NFL. Their are a lot of reasons ratings are down, but one reason youth and high school participation is down…concussions.

    Who wants to play a sport where you can get a brain disease and have people at the highest level, deny it or make statements like that?

    McNair should go through the concussion protocol for signing the worst QB in the NFL to a 70 million dollar dear.

  8. I don’t think the average NFL fan has any clue just how close they came to watching the NFL go bankrupt from that lawsuit. They were all on Twitter screaming at eachother about losing 1% of the air in a football.

    But Goodell knew it. The owners knew it. And the media outlets that ignored it and kept shoveling you all big fat helpings of Deflategate gossip knew it.

    Keep that in mind the next time you think you and the internet cracked the problems of the world, and only the help of a few plucky billionaires will help you set it straight.

  9. Wow – I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with every comment to an article like I have here. It’s all been said…

  10. This topic is so tired. Of course the universities are culpable. Of course the players signed a CBA. Of course they’ve been playing, willfully from an early age. Unfortunately for the players they didn’t do enough to provide for themselves and they’re still not. Fans are just as responsible. If you’re so dismayed at the attitude of a businessman go go settle in a cabin somewhere and learn to live off the land Grizzly Adams. Everything McNair is quoted as saying is absolutely true from his perspective. He’s trying to protect what’s his and if you think you wouldn’t do the same you’re naive and ignorant.

  11. While NFL HQ preaches integrity and transparency, they have had plenty of chances to come clean on plenty of different issues and NEVER have. I loved the old NFL, but it wouldn’t break my heart to see the Liars Club we now know burn to the ground.

  12. Why is there such a big stink? If a football player does not understand that football is hard on the human body then they should not be allowed anywhere near a football field. Furthermore, they should not be allowed to leave their home either because they are to stupid to be a productive member of society.
    You have grown men, mostly larger than the normal human being, running full speed crashing in to one another over and over for 60 minutes. What do you think will happen to the human body in such a violent sport? Umm…what do you think will happen? I thought that is why you got the huge paycheck for playing professional sports. I thought your paycheck reflected the risk of your job and by accepting said paycheck you understand that with great risk comes great reward. You live the high life for possibly years, but you may not be able to walk when you are 50 or 60 years old. It sounds harsh, but nobody twisted your arm. They waved a buck under your nose and you bit. It was 100% your choice to choose your job and by accepting it, you get all the positive’s and all the negatives that come with it. This is common sense, next thing you hear will be something about boxing and head injuries. What do you mean, you say getting hit in the head repeatedly isn’t good for you? What, your brain will be mush, possibly end up with alzheimers, or mabey Parkinson”s disease may show up later in life? What, oh no, such a suprise! Own your decisions, accept the consequences to your life decisions like an intelligent adult, and quit crying because your life sucks. You did it to you…there will be no compassion…quit crying.

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