NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took issue with the notion that the league’s $765 million settlement with former players is a paltry sum compared to the sport’s revenues.
”This is a significant amount of money,” he said Wednesday. ”The plaintiffs also agreed it was an appropriate amount. The mediator felt it was an appropriate amount.”
Goodell made his first public comments since the settlement to the lawsuits was announced last week. More than 4,500 former players, some of them suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or depression, accused the NFL of concealing the long-term dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field.
”We were able to find common ground to be able to get relief to the players and their families now rather than spending years litigating,” Goodell said at an event in Manhattan to promote February’s New York/New Jersey Super Bowl.
The settlement was announced last Thursday after two months of court-ordered mediation and is subject to approval by a federal judge. It does not include an admission from the NFL that it hid information from players about head injuries.
”We think it’s the right thing to move forward and try to do what we can to help our players,” Goodell said.
Some former players questioned the size of the settlement, considering it stretches over 20 years and will be divided among thousands of people – and considering the NFL takes in more than $9 billion a year, a figure that will rise when new TV contracts start in 2014.
Goodell noted that those billions are revenues, not profits.
The settlement applies to all past NFL players and spouses of those who are deceased – a group that could total more than 20,000. It sets aside $75 million for medical exams and $10 million for medical research.
Individual payouts would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia.
The NFL’s litigation may still not be over. Four former players filed a federal lawsuit in New Orleans on Sunday against the league and helmet maker Riddell, claiming they hid information about the dangers of brain injury. They want medical care for past, current and future NFL players.
As the league and retired players debate what happened in the past, the NFL has promoted its initiatives aimed at making the game safer. Goodell appeared on ”CBS This Morning” earlier Wednesday to help announce a program with Under Armour and GE to donate money toward projects that prevent head injuries.