Friday, August 30, 2013

Unsettling Settlement

Here's what you need to know about the settlement the NFL came to on the massive lawsuit filed by former players over concussions: It's the biggest win the league has seen since the Monsters of the Midway stomped Washington 73-0.

The league's going to spin this very simply: They're paying out a lot of money to take care of these former players who have been injured, $765M, to be precise. Because it's a lot of money, anyone who points out that, on closer examination, it's not that great a deal for the players is going to get clobbered, and any players who refuse to take the deal are going to get tarred as greedy and ungrateful.

Consider: It's $765M, yes, but the settlement is with roughly 4500 plaintiffs. Do the math and it's roughly $170K per plaintiff. Which, taken as a lump sum, is still a decent amount of money, except if you've actually dealt with what health care costs these days. Now, consider that the $170K (and yes, some guys will get more or less, but we're working with a base model here) is intended to cover lifetime care for the concussion-related damage and suddenly it doesn't really seem like a lot of money at all.

Or: Consider that the players will have to agree to sign off on the deal before they know how much they might be getting in the settlement. If it were you, and you were told that you had to sign a deal NOW without knowing what you were getting, you might be a little reluctant - at least, if you have the good sense God gave your average gerbil. But the pressure is going to be on these guys to sign, and to sign now. It's a pig in a poke.

Or: Consider the fact that by making this deal, the league avoids discovery. That's the real win here - their experts don't have to go on the stand, their documentation doesn't get entered into evidence. The already-documented shenanigans don't get made part of the legal record, and the stuff we don't know about stays hidden.

Or: Consider that the NFL's number one waterboy, Mike Florio of PFT, is already crowing about how one of the best features of the deal is how it will prevent ex-players who don't deserve money from getting any, with the stated implication that there are bandwagoners who have attached themselves to the lawsuit just for the money. Of course, it's a good thing that money will be going to the deserving, but the fact that the talking point is out there already that the lawsuit is perhaps less than legit is revolting.

Or: Consider that even conservative estimates were that the concussion lawsuits were going to cost the league billions, and suddenly $765M, doled out piecemeal over years and years - roughly 1/4 of the league's broadcast revenues for one year under the current deal - doesn's seem like a high price to pay. (and yes that's broadcast revenues, before you count dollar one of tickets or seat licenses or merchandising or concessions get the idea). Bob Ley of ESPN estimates that the settlement will come to roughly $1M per team per year, or, slightly more than the Eagles are paying something called a Zach Ertz this year. Hardship, this is not; the league is hoping to grow annual revenues to $14B by the end of the decade.

It's not over yet. Someone's going to challenge this. And it's better than the shameful way in which the league has treated the players suffering from post-concussion effects previously. But in the meantime, the NFL has seized control of the narrative on concussion damage ahead of the airing of League of Denial, and now they can sit back and play prevent defense.

Because it's a lot of money, right? And unless you look at it more closely, that seems like enough.

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