NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
There is no other way to put it but the NFL is Rollo Tomasi. The NFL always gets away with it. Evidence abounds that the NFL has been running a concussion assembly line for decades. But now that it has settled its high-profile concussion lawsuit with 4,500 ex-player plaintiffs for $765 million, there will be no discovery process. We will never hear what the NFL knew and when it knew it. We will never hear if its top neurologists had information that might actually be worth the public’s knowing as we move forward, so we can make informed decisions about whether we want our own children playing football. We will never hear, because the Teflon dons in the NFL office now have this sealed up tighter than Ft. Knox. And all it cost was $765 million.
Sports Illustrated senior writer and NFL lickspittle Peter King immediately took to Twitter to blast those criticizing the sum, saying, “I love everyone calling $765 million chump change.” The more, however, you look at the figure, the more chumpish it appears. As Sports on Earth’s Patrick Hruby notes in his excellent breakdown of the agreement, this marks less than 10 percent of the NFL’s $9 billion in annual revenue and far below the estimates of $2–10 billion that many were saying it would cost to make the lawsuit go away. In addition, half of the $765 million will be paid in the first three years. The second half of the sum will be paid out over seventeen years. That comes out to just over $700,000 per team, or the annual salary of a decent place kicker. And the coup de grâce, even though some of the money is earmarked for players with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), the NFL doesn’t have to admit any liability whatsoever. In other words, the NFL will help players with brain diseases for which it doesn’t need to take any accountability.
As Hruby writes, this is “like Goldman Sachs paying a record $550 million Securities and Exchange Commission fine—a whopping four percent of the firm’s $13.4 billion profit in 2009—to walk away otherwise unscathed from its central role in the subprime mortgage meltdown and subsequent tanking of the world economy.”