Thousands of lawsuits against the National Football League prompted the leagues agreement on a more than $1 billion fund to help cover medical bills for serious injuries to current and former NFL players.
The settlement, drafted in 2015, kicks in this week, with the NFL rolling out $65 million into trust funds to pay for former players’ medical bills. In lawsuits against the NFL, plaintiffs maintained that the league hid important medical knowledge of the risks of concussion and other neurological injuries to keep bringing back football players into games. The settlement was approved, and largely successful because of the NFL Players Association, the union dedicated to protecting the rights of NFL players and making sure the NFL honors its dedication to high safety standards.
DeMaurice Smith, elected to the position of Executive Director to the NFL Players Association in 2009, has fought for players’ rights and has been a furious advocate of safe workplaces, decent and fair pensions, and holding organizations and companies accountable for taking care of medical bills associated with workplace injuries, as discussed in an INSIGHT interview with mOppeneheim.TV. In another 2016 interview, Smith commented on the concussions in the NFL, saying the issue must be addressed head on, tackling “prevention, treatment and medical diagnosis.”
Smith has fought for NFL players’ basic and human rights for years, including more recently commenting on the possible risks posed to NFL players with the repeal of the ACA, which could threaten their access to adequate health insurance. He also recently spoke out against the possible bill that would limit workers’ compensation to athletes over 35.
In a recent interview with GQ magazine DeMaurice Smith stated: “Our duty is to make sure that we are truthful to our players, that we follow the science wherever [it] takes us—that’s where we need to go. You change whatever this thing called football is to accommodate the truth and the science. Not the other way around.” He added, “When we walked into that hearing, we were going to take the position that that stance was not only morally wrong, but violated [the NFL’s] duty to maintain a safe workplace.”
George Atallah, Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs, also commented, saying, “You have to have people hold institutions accountable to making that information transparent. And in this case, you have a business who was engaged in doing exactly the opposite for a decade.”
The hearing for the NFL settlement took place on Wednesday in Philadelphia, when lawyers urged former players to register by August 7th to be eligible for benefits that are “long overdue” and “sorely needed,” as one representative lawyer of the players stated in an interview with Associated Press. The average compensation for injuries and concussions is estimated to be $190,000 in the most severe cases.