A federal judge announced that retired NFL players can begin registering for compensation under the historic $1 billion settlement agreed upon by the league that will cover more than 20,000 former NFL players over 65 years.
In an unusual conference from the federal court system, the judge and lawyers from both sides spoke on a stage at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and live-streamed the event on the settlement information website. The goal was to reach as many former players who could receive benefits from the deal as possible.
The conference began with remarks from U.S. District Judge Anita Brody of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the judge who presided over the settlement process and is in charge of overseeing the deal. She urged former players to register before the Aug. 7 deadline to receive benefits from the settlement.
“My job is to see that justice is done,” said Brody, according to the New York Daily News. “Without registering, none of these people will be eligible.”
After her remarks, she turned the floor over to Brad Karp of Paul Weiss, one of the league’s attorneys.
“The NFL is proud of this settlement,” he said, according to the Legal Intelligencer. “The league encourages all class members to register promptly.”
The settlement provides financial compensation to retired players who were diagnosed with certain neurological diseases believed to be caused by repeated concussions while playing football. The deal, which resolved thousands of lawsuits claiming the NFL knowingly hid evidence of concussion risks, covers players diagnosed with a range of diseases, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and more.
The maximum reward of $5 million will go to the sickest players and their families, but league auditors have estimated that more than 6,000 players would receive an average of $190,000. The settlement is not capped, but this estimate puts it at a little more than $1 billion.
Along with financial compensation, players are being provided free brain injury testing to see whether they are suffering from a neurocognitive disease.
“We need every retired player tested,” said Chris Seeger, the co-lead counsel for the players. “That is critical. We can have test results that we can compare 10, 20 years down the road if there is, unfortunately, a neurocognitive decline. Everybody that is entitled to compensation will get it.”
Players will not need to prove causation in order to receive payments.
Group of NFL Players Fought Settlement Until Last Year
The settlement was first approved by Brody in 2015, but the distribution process was delayed until last year. A group of players had contested the terms and took issue with the inadequate coverage for CTE, which is diagnosed after death. Only players diagnosed with CTE before April 22, 2015, are eligible to receive benefits for their families.
The group of players went to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but the court decided that the settlement should be upheld. Third Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ambro wrote in the court’s opinion that the settlement may be flawed in some ways but that no settlement is perfect.
“This settlement will provide nearly $1 billion in value to the class of retired players,” the judge wrote. “It is a testament to the players, researchers, and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.”
The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case resulted in the affirmation of the settlement. Roughly 160 retired players have opted out of the settlement and will pursue litigation on their own.
Thousands of NFL Players Have Already Registered
At the conference, the judge and lawyer confirmed that 3,000 players have already signed up since registration was opened on Feb. 6.
Ex-players are encouraged to go to nflconcussionsettlement.com to register for eligibility of benefits, including baseline testing and possible financial compensation.
The NFL is moving the first $65 million in payments into trust funds this week to cover benefits stipulated in the settlement. An additional $120 million in payments will be made by the league over the next six months.
Checks related to the settlement could be issued as early as this summer.
“It’s been a long road for many of these NFL players and these families,” said Seeger, according to the Associated Press. “We’re finally at the point that we can roll out benefits … that are greatly deserved and sorely needed.”