Today the NFL reached a settlement with over 4,500 former players over concussion-related brain injuries. The NFL agreed to pay $765 million over 20 years (half must be paid within the next three years).
Here are the highlights of the settlement:
— $675 million will be used to compensate former players and the families of deceased former players who have suffered from “cognitive injury.”
— The NFL does not have to admit they are liable for the injuries
— Individual awards are capped as follows: $5 million for players who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s Disease or any other “severe cognitive impairment.” Four million dollars for players who are diagnosed with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) after they are deceased, and $3 million for players who suffer from dementia.
— The settlement covers all players who have retired from the NFL by the date the suit is approved, as of now it is over 18,000 players. It will not cover current players.
— The remaining money will cover “baseline medical exams” (capped at $75 million) and $10 million will fund research and education
Okay, now that all that’s out of the way its time to read between the lines here. On the surface $675 million going to former players and their families sounds like a big number, I mean that’s “Baby money” right? But, if it were divided evenly between the 18,000 players covered (it won’t be) that would only be $37,500.
The settlement looks worse when you take into account the revenue that flows through the NFL. In 2011 ESPN paid $15.2 billion (with a B) for the right to broadcast Monday Night Football, the Pro Bowl and the NFL Draft for eight years. To put that in perspective, thats over 22 times the amount of money awarded to the former players. That doesn’t even take into account the CBS, Fox and NBC extensions that go into place after this season (reportedly worth $27 billion).
At the time it was estimated that the NFL brings in over $9 billion in revenue per year, and that was before the ESPN extension kicked in (that starts after this season as well). The NFL isn’t going to stop growing over the next 20 years either, former Pro Bowl center and two time President of the NFL Players Association Kevin Mawae tweeted today that the estimated revenue for the NFL in 2025 is $27 billion.
All in all, $765 million does look like a lot of money on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper you can see this is a small number disguised as a big number. That on top of the NFL not having to admit any guilt for all of their former players dying and living with cognitive diseases, and not including current players in this deal (they can get fleeced on their own 20 years down the line when they have to take their former employers to court) the NFL made out like bandits today.
In the future it will be interesting to see how other leagues (and even physical businesses like the WWE) deal with similar suits that you just know are coming. This is now the benchmark, a (really) small piece of the pie and admitting no fault at all, and continuing business as usual.