Report: NFL Concussion Settlement Could Shut Out Many

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As details begin to emerge about the NFL’s $765 million concussion settlement, a new report suggests the proposed agreement may not allow any compensation for the very first players to be diagnosed with football-related brain damage.

According to the report by ESPN’s Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada:

The proposed settlement disqualifies most players who died before 2006, even if they were diagnosed with football-related brain damage. That would shut out the relatives of players like Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, who died in 2002 and was later diagnosed with the first case of football-related brain damage.

The ESPN report found that the NFL sought to only include death claims that fell within the standard two-year statute of limitations. Representatives for the more than 4,500 players involved in the class-action lawsuit sought to extend the agreement to include deaths that occurred as far back as 2006.

Players had been suing the NFL for allegedly concealing a link between football and brain damage. The backstory of the case is the focus of the film League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, which premieres Oct. 8 on FRONTLINE.

The report also raises questions whether there will be enough money in the settlement to adequately cover all eligible players. The settlement — which was announced last month — sets aside $675 million just for claims. However, estimates from ESPN suggest retired players and the relatives of deceased players could be eligible to collect as much as $1 billion.

Concerns are also arising over how much of the settlement will be absorbed by legal fees. While the original outline of the settlement called for the NFL to pay for a separate attorney’s fund, some players will have to pay attorneys “under previously negotiated contingency agreement,” according to the report.

“That means many players could be forced to use part of their settlement money — in some cases as much as one-third or more — to cover legal expenses,” ESPN found. “It also means that some lawyers could be paid multiple times — once out of the common benefit and also through individual contracts with players.”

A federal judge must still approve the settlement. Full details about the agreement are expected to be filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia in the next several weeks.

The casket bearing the body of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster at left is surrounded by flowers and photographs of the Hall-of-Fame lineman after funeral services in a Pittsburgh funeral home Friday, Sept. 27, 2002. Webster died Tuesday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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