NFL Settles Players' Concussions Dispute For $765 Million

The NFL has agreed to a $765 million settlement with more than 4,500 former players and families over concussions. The money will fund medical exams and treatment and provide compensation to players and families.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

On to some groundbreaking news today from the National Football League. The NFL has announced a settlement with former players on concussions. Forty-five hundred players sued the league over concussion-related injuries, and today the league agreed to settle for some $765 million, this with just a week to go before the football season starts.

NPR's Tom Goldman is with us, and, Tom, let's start by breaking down the deal. How does this proposed settlement work?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Well, Robert, the NFL and NFL Properties will make payments, including breaking down that 765 figure you mentioned, 675 million for compensating former players who have, quote, "suffered cognitive injury," or paying their families. There will be a cap of $75 million for baseline medical exams for former players without symptoms or just starting to show symptoms and $10 million for concussion education and research. Those are, you know, some of the key parts.

SIEGEL: And when it comes to the players, who gets what and when?

GOLDMAN: Well, any player who has retired through the date that the judge in this case, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, preliminarily approves the settlement is included. Brody is expected to give approval within 30 to 60 days from now. If you are currently playing and you're not retired, you are not included in the settlement. There were, as you mentioned, about 4,500 players, former players who'd filed suit.

The plaintiffs' attorney said today the number of qualified veterans could be around 18,000. Now, as far as the money they're awarded, it's on a sliding scale based on the severity of their condition. Any player who develops a serious neurological problem - Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, dementia - will receive a substantial benefit, in some cases as high as $5 million. Families of those players who have committed suicide after suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, will be eligible for compensation as well. Again, that could be a seven-figure payout.

Now, Robert, if the settlement receives final approval, as is expected, and any appeals have been concluded, the NFL will pay approximately 50 percent of the settlement amount over three years, the next three years, and the balance over the next 17 years.

SIEGEL: You say approval is expected. What kind of response has there been from the NFL and from the players?

GOLDMAN: Not much from the NFL. They said because there hasn't been final approval, they're not really going to say much. The players' attorney, a man named Christopher Seeger, held a conference call today. He was very positive about the settlement, which he said really didn't come together until early this morning, about 2 a.m. He called it an extraordinary agreement that'll provide immediate care and support for former players and families.

Now, the settlement means the NFL doesn't have to turn over files that the plaintiffs alleged would show years of covering up serious health consequences of concussion. Seeger was asked about the NFL not having to reveal that. He said some - certainly many in the media - would be upset about it. But he says, he had one goal and he achieved it, so he's not bothered. He wanted to get enough money for substantial payouts and not waiting 10, maybe 20 years or never if litigation had continued. And the NFL is expert at dragging out lawsuits.

SIEGEL: Now, the NFL season begins next week. And this deal is widely seen as a victory for the league. Why? Why is it such a big deal?

GOLDMAN: Well, look at the money, 765 million. That's a lot of money. But it's a $9 billion, you know, revenue league. It gets this albatross of a huge lawsuit, a possible doomsday scenario if the NFL lost the litigation. It gets this off the NFL's neck as the season starts. And remember, "Frontline" is airing this controversial documentary in October that's being promoted as a comprehensive look at the NFL concussion problems. And there's a companion book, both are titled "League of Denial." That's still going to happen, and the concussion issue is still very real. But you can't help but think the impact, certainly of the documentary, will be lessened by this settlement.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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