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Judge's Hesitation Gives NFL Chance To Come Clean

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Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images.
Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images.

Judge Anita Brody made a bold statement earlier this week when she preliminarily denied the $760 million settlement agreement between the NFL and thousands of former players alleging the NFL withheld crucial information about head trauma during their playing days. In short, Judge Brody requested more information regarding the economics of the settlement to ensure that every former player is monetarily compensated and their medical expenses are covered. Despite lengthy negotiations, attorneys from both sides were ordered to provide more accurate information regarding the specifics of the settlement.

While this appears to be yet another stain on the NFL's attempts to sweep its concussion epidemic under the rug, the league just received a gift from Judge Brody in the form of a great publicity opportunity. With settlement agreements, both sides usually make concessions in an effort to avoid litigation. Here, the NFL is shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to rectify its past ignorance on head trauma. Since it's clear that money is no object to the NFL, the league - and its owners - have a golden opportunity here to get in front of this story and admit they made mistakes in educating players about head trauma and admit they didn't do enough to prevent further damage after players were concussed. The NFL needs to step up and take care of the very individuals that made its game the most popular one in America. 

Of course, this will not happen. Settlements are often filled with NON-admissions, or express statements that defendant admits no liability or fault. And the league is not about to admit it was wrong in the past because it will only open a floodgate of further litigation. But the truth is, the NFL prints more money than the Federal Reserve. The television deals it makes are worth billions. Super Bowl advertising spots command close to seven figures. The league has more than ample funds to seriously address this concussion problem and compensate former players struggling with head trauma symptoms.

Did the players assume the risk of playing such a violent game? Yes. Should they have known helmet-to-helmet hits would cause concussions? Absolutely. But these things do not absolve the NFL from the moral responsbility of protecting its former players. 

As a side note, the preliminary rejection of this settlement was an embarrassing blow to the attorneys representing the players. Judge Brody is not necessarily implying that the league should pay more, but she is clearly concerned that the amount offered by the NFL and that it might not be enough. In a move that drew immediate headlines, Judge Brody exercised diligence and I applaud her for her attempts to ensure that the former players involved in this lawsuit are protected down the road.