The US Supreme Court [official website] denied [order list, PDF] review of two class action lawsuit settlements Monday related to concussion injuries suffered by players in the National Football League [website]. The $1 billion settlement between the NFL and more than 20,000 retired players has been challenged by some of those players in two different suits, Armstrong vs. National Football League and Gilchrist vs. National Football League [dockets]. In their decision [opinion] to let the settlement between the NFL and the retired players stand, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] wrote, “It is the nature of a settlement that some will be dissatisfied with the result.”
[W]e do not doubt that objectors are well-intentioned in making thoughtful arguments against certification of the class and approval of this settlement. They aim to ensure that the claims of retired players are not given up in exchange for anything less than a generous settlement agreement negotiated by very able representatives. But they risk making the perfect the enemy of the good. This settlement will provide nearly $1 billion in value to the class of retired players. It is a testament to the players, researchers, and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.
The settlement caps a rocky period for the NFL. In what has been referred to [NYT report] as a “stunning about-face” for a league that has denied the existence of a connection between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a representative for the NFL admitted [NYT, materials] for the first time that the disease and the sport are connected during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee [official website] in March. Last December JURIST Guest Columnist Alyssa Lebron of St. John’s University School of Law [official website] Class of 2016 discussed the long-term effects of concussions and the need for federal regulation in contact sports [JURIST op-ed]. In similar fashion and in the same month, JURIST Guest Columnist Carrie Clodi of Valparaiso University School of Law [official website] Class of 2017 discussed legislation regulating youth and student athlete sport participation after concussion or head injury and the necessity of continued awareness of student athlete safety [JURIST op-ed]. As these articles point out, the developments in research concerning these sports-related health issues are creating a large focus on how to prevent the causes moving forward and how to treat the effects of past action that were not previously recognized.