First, he had to wait way too long to get to the Hall of Fame. Next, because he didn’t make it to the Hall of Fame during his lifetime, Stabler’s family didn’t get the gold jacket or the ring that goes along with it. (And apparently still won’t, thanks the the Hall of Fame’s clumsy carving of an exception for Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.)
Now, even though Stabler died with advanced CTE, he won’t get a penny from the NFL’s concussion settlement.
Dom Cosentino of Deadspin.com explains the legal technicalities that prevent Stabler from receiving payment. His death with CTE came less than three months after the agreed window closed for compensation based on death with CTE. And Stabler’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis came after he died, contrary to language of the settlement that requires the diagnosis to come during the player’s lifetime.
The NFL fought the efforts of Stabler’s estate to get compenstion for the brain trauma he suffered while playing football, because of course the NFL did. That’s the problem with having an unlimited fund to pay claims under the concusion settlement; removing the cap created a strong incentive for the NFL to fight any and every claim, on any basis at its disposal.
In most cases involving opposition to a claim, the NFL fights by challenging whether the player has or had a health condition that qualifies for compensation. In this case, the NFL simply connected the dots to the plain language of the court-approved settlement in order to escape doing the right thing.
The NFL fought Stabler’s claim by, among other things, challenging the veracity of the notion that he didn’t seek an Alzheimer’s diagnosis before he died because he was fighting colon cancer by pointing out that he had “extensive dental work” performed and that he was planning to have knee-replacement surgery. In other words, the NFL suggested that the contention was an embellishment at best, a lie at worst.
Although the NFL’s argument could be easily dismissed as overlawyering, it was unnecessary, unrealistic, and unkind. Getting an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in the hopes of eventually getting a sliver of the concussion settlement surely took a backseat to more pressing matters for Stabler like, you know, having a mouthful of functioning teeth and eliminating the pain of a knee that was wrecked by a lifetime of football. Not to mention the colon cancer.
Put simply, Stabler wasn’t motivated by greed. If the NFL would like to convince anyone that it isn’t motivated by greed, it will pay Stabler’s claim.
As with Stabler’s nonexistent (for now) gold jacket and ring, all it would take is one phone call from the Commissioner to fix the situation.
No one is counting on that happening, including Kim Bush, who was Stabler’s partner during the final 16 years of his life.
“I guess in some weird, kind of crazy way, we can close the book, you know?” Bush told Cosentino. “At least now you know definitively, okay, everybody has screwed him that can screw him. Let him rest in peace, put it behind us, and move on.”