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NFL Avoids a PR Headache for $765 Million
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Yesterday, the NFL reached a settlement over concussion-related TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) among 18,000 retired players for $765 million, which will go toward personal compensation, medical examinations, and brain research. That equals approximately $30 million in damages to your favorite football team and the rest will come from Commissioner Roger Goodell's rainy day fund over the next three years. This case may have been months in the making, but it took decades of horror stories to get to this point. 

According to the 
New York Times, there are more than 4,500 former athletes suffering from dementia, depression, or even Alzheimers — each blamed on vicious blows to the head caused by zealous football players. These 4,500 athletes were led by Super Bowl Shufflin' Jim McMahon, the family of deceased San Diego linebacker Junior Seau and Hall-of-Fame Dallas Cowboy running back, the great Tony Dorsett. 

Under the settlement, individual awards 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 (CTE); and $3 million for players with dementia, said lead plaintiffs' lawyer Christopher Seeger.

Of course, the NFL has perpetually denied any fault because [insert obligatory response here] "safety always has been a top priority." But the NFL said Thursday that Commissioner Roger Goodell told pro football's lawyers to "do the right thing for the game and the men who played it." Where did this benevolence and sudden mercy come from suddenly? From the mouth of a PR professional is my guess. How? If I was said flack, I would take a look at one year of earnings and tell the Commish:

"With legal fees, this price tag could reach $1 billion. To the mere mortal, that's a good amount of cash but the NFL will take in 10 times that much this football season alone. Suck it up, Rog. Pucker up and kiss that cash goodbye. You'll make it all back by Game 6 of the season." Furthermore, by settling this out of court, you are telling the NFL fandom, 'Yeah, we kinda screwed up but we learned our lesson. Love you. Mean it.' And the cavalcade of tailgaters and fair-weather fans alike will understand, forgive you by the playoffs, and not even care this lawsuit happened. 

Why? Because them's the breaks. You get paid an untold amount of cash to play a game that violent? Um, enjoy the cash and have a warm cup of shut the $%&* up. This entire issue was causing the seemingly untouchable NFL a huge headache, specifically in the area of listening to the needs of its players. Some are dying. Others will never be right again. Those massive hits to the head leave much more than a mark in the back of your medulla. It creates an unforgettable incident about how violent football really is...and then does largely nothing to do about it except hand out parting gifts to all the guests. 

STILL...the NFL got off cheap, cheap, cheap.  Sometimes, the price to get over a serious crisis is nothing. Other times, it can cost you everything. The NFL's gaggle of lawyers could have carried out this lawsuit for months or years. Meanwhile, back on national TV, more players are getting concussions, getting afflicted with these terrible diseases, and realizing how good they could have had it. Roger Goodell knew he was one "Outside the Lines" report away from full-on scandal. He had to make a move of benevolence to show he does care, he does have a soul, and does...not want this concussion thing to go to court. He did...so he wins. At least in a court of law, because the next NFL reunion he goes to, he may want to leave the room when players take the stage for testimonial time. 

“The settlement seems low considering the number of claimants and the severity of their conditions, but it also shows the uphill climb in proving the league was responsible for the players’ injuries,” said Michael LeRoy, who teaches labor law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The league is keenly sensitive to its public image. It changes the conversation and really lets the air out of the publicity balloon.”

Well, it can change the conversation for a while, then medical experts get involved and fight on behalf of victims. Then the NFL gets smart and says, "All right. Touch football from now on." Suddenly, those experts forget what they were all worked up about and decide this tackling thingy isn't that bad. Maybe I'm exaggerating. Maybe. 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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