On Thursday the National Football League offered a preview of its defense against 21 lawsuits filed by several hundred retired players in six states: These ex-players can’t seek damages for concussions, since safety issues fall under the collective bargaining agreement they had with the league.
There were numerous press reports, including one by the Associated Press, on the hearing that took place before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Miami.
At that proceeding, attorneys for the NFL and the suing ex-players argued that the cases should be consolidated for pretrial matters before Judge Anita Brody of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She is located in Philadelphia, where the first players lawsuits over concussions were filed.
The panel in Miami reserved judgment on consolidating the suits.
At least 300 players, and roughly that equivalent in terms of wives and family members, have charged that the NFL for years knew, and downplayed, the fact that repeated concussions can cause long-term damage to the brain. In retirement, many of these players are getting early-onset dementia, memory loss, depression and degenerative brain disease.
Among those who are suing are former star players such as Lem Barney, Otis Anderson and Marvin Jones. But there was only one ex-player in court in Miami last week: Rich Miano, who played for the Jets, Eagles and Falcons.
He was quite eloquent in his comments to AP. Talking about concussions when he was playing, back in the day, Miano said they were referred to as “getting a stinger” or “getting your bell rung.”
He told AP, “It was just, ‘Get back out there.'”
The NFL, like the player plaintiffs’ attorneys, wants the suits put together. But Beth Wilkinson, the league’s lawyer, wants them consolidated so that she can get them dismissed en masse.
She argued Thursday that the retired players’ grievances shouldn’t be litigated, that the allegations raised by the players should be be resolved under the NFL-player collective bargaining agreement. Needless to say, the players feel differently. So do I.
Several of the suits have named the vendor that supplies helmets to the NFL, Riddell, as a defendent, as well. According to The Miami Herald, Riddell’s attorney wants the lawsuits that cite Riddell handled separately from the one that don’t name the helmet company.
This battle, of the NFL versus its former warriors, may end up rivaling the Super Bowl in terms of drama. And it could be a long one.